Ukraine native Iana Kasian had it all: brains, striking good looks and a personality that lit up a room. When she immigrated to Los Angeles in 2014, the former law student had her sights set on a career in modeling. Although things had gotten off to a promising start, a chance encounter had derailed her plans and forever altered the course of her life.

Within a few months of arriving in the States, twenty-eight-year-old Iana was already booking modeling gigs. As a means of getting her foot in the door, she began attending industry functions in the hopes of grabbing the attention of Hollywood power players. At one such soiree in 2015, she met an up-and-coming writer, director and film producer named Blake Leibel.

Following a whirlwind courtship, the unlikely pair were engaged. While Iana was an outgoing beauty who turned heads everywhere she went, her new beau was a socially awkward nebbish who seemed a bit out of place in his surroundings. Fortunately for him, what he lacked in charm he more than made up for in wealth.

Unlike Iana, who came from a humble background, Leibel was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father Lorne had made a fortune as a real estate tycoon in their native Canada, while his mother’s affluence came from “old money.” Having been born to a pair of multi-millionaires, Blake and his younger brother Cody never wanted for anything.

When the boys were just reaching adulthood, their parents decided to end their marriage. When the time came for them to move houses, Cody had chosen to live with their father, while Blake took up residence with their mother.

Given free rein to do as he pleased, Leibel began spending time in New York City’s eclectic artists’ community. With an $18,000 a month stipend at his disposal — courtesy of his father — and a generous nature, he was welcomed into their ranks with open arms.

In 2009, Leibel had written, directed and produced a raunchy straight-to-video comedy called Bald. Even though the film was panned by critics and audiences alike, he remained determined to make a name for himself in the world of cinema. Whether it was as the next Steven Spielberg or, more likely, Ed Wood, hadn’t really mattered to the dreamer whose pockets were deep enough to fund any project of his choosing.

A year later, he was instrumental in the creation of a graphic novel titled Syndrome, which told the story of a psychologist trying to find a cure for murd*er. The macabre illustrations included depictions of victims being hung upside down and bled dry. Disturbingly, the cover featured a baby doll with its scalp removed, exposing the brain. These over-the-top images, along with the ominous line of dialogue “We all become monsters in the end,” would figure heavily in events yet to come.

In 2011, Leibel’s mother passed away, leaving him richer than he ever imagined. After inheriting $5.5 million from her estate, he permanently settled in Hollywood. Later that same year, he married his longtime girlfriend, model Amanda Braun.

Not long after the nuptials, the couple welcomed their first child. Although Leibel had assumed the role of family man, it wasn’t a part he could play convincingly for long. With a roving eye and millions of dollars to throw around as he saw fit, by 2015, he was back on the dating scene. The fact that he had a wife and son at home hadn’t seemed to bother him in the least.

When Iana Kasian was introduced to Leibel, she had been instantly smitten with the soft-spoken twentysomething who threw money around like it grew on trees, and the feeling was mutual. There was only one glaring obstacle standing in the way of their happiness, namely, Amanda who was a month away from delivering their second child. Believing that the heart wants what it wants, he had packed his things and left his family to be with the new woman in his life.

A traditional girl at heart who had made it clear from the beginning that she wasn’t interested in getting involved with a married man, Iana had wanted to make sure that any loose ends were tied up before moving forward. For his part, Leibel had assured her that the marriage was over long before she entered the picture. The way he told it, he and Amanda had been separated for quite some time and were headed for divorce, one way or the other.

Satisfied that she wasn’t a homewrecker, Iana focused all of her attention on building a life with Leibel in the West Hollywood condo they called home. Before long, she announced that she too was expecting. Though her already married lover relished being the center of her universe, he had taken the news better than she had anticipated. She hadn’t realized at the time that he was a much better actor than he was a filmmaker.

When Iana would inquire about the status of the divorce, Leibel’s stock answer was that the papers were in the process of being finalized. As the weeks stretched into months, she waited patiently for the day when they would walk down the aisle, which she hoped would come before the baby was born.

As they awaited the big event, cracks began to appear in the blissful facade they had created. Some of the trouble stemmed from Leibel’s irrational fear that his brother Cody, who was an amateur player on the poker circuit, owed millions of dollars to the Russian mafia. While there is no evidence that this was indeed the case, he had become convinced that he and his family were being targeted by the mob.

As if his paranoid delusions weren’t enough, Leibel was also juggling three romantic entanglements at once. Besides his estranged wife Amanda who was caring for a toddler and newborn with little help from him, and his pregnant girlfriend Iana, he was also seeing Constance Buccafurri, another attractive young woman who had fallen under his spell. He was so taken with her in fact that he was putting her up in one of the many homes he owned, unbeknownst to his fiancé.

In March of 2016, the couple’s daughter Diana was delivered by Caesarian section. Iana’s mother Olga had flown in from Ukraine to be by her daughter’s side and also to help take care of the baby during the recovery period. Olga, Diana, Iana, and Leibel sharing a happy moment only weeks before the mur*der.

The Downward Spiral Begins

Less than a month later, Constance Buccafurri had Leibel arrested on charges of se*xual as*sault. Though it meant revealing the affair he had been trying to hide, he had called Iana and asked her to post bail, which she did without hesitation.

With the blinders now off, Iana realized that Leibel was a habitual cheater and had been all along. No longer willing to be a pawn in his game of lies and broken promises, she packed up Diana, who was only a few days old, and moved in with her mother.

During one of the many heart-to-hearts they would have in the coming days, her daughter had confided to Olga that Leibel had demanded se*x from her multiple times a day, even though she had only recently been released from the hospital. On the occasions when she couldn’t — or wouldn’t — oblige, he warned her that if she didn’t give him what he wanted, he would get it elsewhere.

Iana had also lamented the fact that Leibel seemed to have no interest in Diana. Rather than being a doting father, he was jealous of the baby for hogging all the attention. As his resentment grew, he constantly berated Iana for focusing on the newborn, while his needs weren’t being met.

On Tuesday, May 23, 2016, Olga and her daughter went shopping for a stroller for Diana. At some point that afternoon, Iana had received a text from Leibel. Although she didn’t know the content of the message, Olga could tell by the worried expression on her daughter’s face that it wasn’t good. Before she could glean any information, Iana had rushed off, saying that she needed to go to the condo in West Hollywood.

Their day out cut short, Olga had taken Diana home and waited to hear from her daughter. As the hours ticked by with no word, she grew increasingly concerned that something was wrong. She tried Iana’s cell phone numerous times, but the calls had gone straight to voicemail. Fearing that something terrible had happened, she contacted the police, who informed her that they would check into it and get back to her later.

When she hadn’t heard anything by the next morning, she asked a friend to stay with Diana while she went to the condo. After finding the gate locked, she had stood in front of the building trying to figure out a way in. As she looked all around for a means of entry, she saw Leibel staring at her from a third-floor window. As their eyes met, she had called his name and asked to be let in, but he pretended not to hear.

Seeing her plight, another resident of the complex unlocked the gate and let her inside. Upon reaching the condo where she was certain her daughter was being held against her will, she began banging on the door and ringing the bell. When no one answered, she called police again, who agreed to meet her at the building.

The responding officers pounded on the door a few times before giving up. Since there was no reason to believe that a crime had taken place, they explained that there was nothing else they could do. And with that, they got back in their patrol car and drove away, leaving Olga on her own. With nothing left to do, she went home and hoped against hope that Iana was safe.

On Thursday morning, Olga placed her third call to police. After explaining to them with the help of an interpreter that her daughter was recovering from surgery and might be suffering from complications, they made arrangements to meet her at the condo.

After knocking on the door and receiving no answer, officers had called out loud and clear that they were from the Sheriff’s Department. When that failed to get the desired results, they had contacted the property manager, who used a pass key to unlock the door.

When they tried to gain entry, the officers found that the interior latches were engaged. Knowing now that someone was deliberately trying to keep them out, they decided to break the door down using a battering ram.

As they cautiously made their way through the living room, they saw no signs of life. When they came to the first bedroom, officers discovered that it was locked up tight. Instead of busting through, they had taken the door off the hinges. Though there was no one inside, the space was in disarray and bloodstains were present on the bedding.

When they moved onto the next room, their progress was once again impeded by a locked door. As they tried to force their way in, a male voice piped up, informing them that he wasn’t coming out. When officers told him that they needed to see Iana, he claimed that she wasn’t home.

As the police tried to convince Leibel to show himself, he phoned a friend and asked him to come over. Shortly after arriving on the scene, the man managed to persuade the clearly manic Leibel to open the door.

After removing the mattress he had used to barricade the room, Leibel emerged wearing only a pair of boxer shorts. By that time, homicide detectives were on hand in anticipation of what was hidden in the bedroom.

Investigators immediately noticed smears of blood that looked as if someone had been working hard to clean up evidence of a crime. As they scanned the room, they saw a woman lying on the bed under a blanket that sported a cartoon character.

It was apparent that the victim, who they presumed to be Iana, had suffered horrific injuries that had proved fatal. Among other things, the top of her head had been removed and the right side of her face and right ear were missing.

When officers pulled back the covers, they saw that Iana’s nude form was as white as a hotel bed sheet. They would later learn that this lack of pigmentation was due to the fact that her body had been almost completely drained of blood.

Leibel was arrested on the spot and led away in handcuffs. As he passed by Olga, who hadn’t been allowed to enter the dwelling, she knew that she would never see her daughter again.Blake Leibel as he appeared on the day of his arrest.

The One and Only Suspect

As he was being booked into custody, it was noted that Leibel’s face was scratched and bruised. He also had at least one bite mark on his arm, indicating to observers that Iana had fought like an animal for her life.

Under intense questioning, Leibel denied having anything to do with Iana’s de*ath. Rather than owning his wrongdoing, he had told the interviewers that science would exonerate him. Where he had conjured up such a notion is anyone’s guess, since it would ultimately do just the opposite.

Investigators were puzzled at first by the lack of blood at the scene, especially given the coroner’s findings that Iana had died from a combination of blunt force trauma to the head and exsanguination, which in layman’s terms means that she literally bled to de*ath. Since the average human body holds over a gallon of blood, they needed to find out where all that fluid had gone. Thanks to a form of luminol known as Bluestar Magnum, a chemical compound that can detect blood that is no longer visible to the naked eye, they would find their answer. Chemically illuminated bloodstains found in the bedroom where the murd*er was believed to have taken place.

When Bluestar was sprayed throughout the condo, the guest bedroom and adjoining bath both glowed an eerily purplish blue, indicating that copious amounts of blood had been spilled in those areas. Although someone had gone to great lengths to clean the rooms from top to bottom, science had foiled their attempts to wash away evidence.The guest bathroom before and after the application of Luminol.

The medical examiner estimated that Iana’s excruciating ordeal had lasted anywhere from six to eight hours. Her de*ath had been so drawn out that security cameras captured at least two instances in which her ki*ller had food delivered to the residence. Adding to his callous disregard for the woman he had once adoringly referred to as his “beloved,” it appeared that he had stopped torturing her periodically in order to grab a bite to eat.

During the course of their investigation, detectives had uncovered trash bags containing bloody clothing, sheets and blankets in the building’s dumpster. A bloody handprint found on the lid of the waste receptacle matched that of Blake Leibel.

While all signs pointed to Leibel as the perpetrator, his motives remained a mystery. Since he refused to take any blame in Iana’s murder, it was up to investigators to piece together a likely scenario. Though they tried to get a picture of the suspect by contacting his family and friends, not one of them was willing to talk about him on the record.

Since no one in Leibel’s circle would speak either for or against him, detectives looked to Olga for answers. After learning that he had grown distant once the baby entered the picture, they surmised that his resentment towards Iana for choosing Diana over him had driven him to unleash his hostilities on her in the most brutal way imaginable.

It was evident to everyone who viewed Iana’s remains that his goal had been to make sure that she suffered and suffer she did. Her d*eath, though inevitable, had been inconsequential. It wasn’t lost on crime scene investigators that rather than covering her decimated body with a blanket from the bed they once shared, he had chosen to use one from their daughter’s nursery.

Iana Has the Last Word

Leibel’s trial for the mu*rder of Iana Kasian finally got underway in June of 2018. Though he was bending over backwards to appear incompetent, a court appointed psychiatrist who had examined him prior to the proceedings concluded that he was fully capable of understanding right from wrong. They pointed to the fact that he had taken great pains to clean up the mess in the aftermath of the ki*lling as proof that he knew exactly what he had done and didn’t want to get caught. The lies he told police, including his claims that Iana wasn’t in the residence, also pointed to his brazen attempts to cover his tracks.

Prosecutors were quick to enter a copy of Syndrome into evidence. Although Leibel hadn’t actually written the content, he had signed off on it and had also been instrumental in getting it published. The grisly similarities between the slayings depicted in the graphic novel and the fate that had befallen Iana were difficult to ignore.

Upon viewing pictures of the injuries that had been inflicted upon Iana and learning that she had been scalped from the back of her head to the front, several jurors had shaken their heads in disbelief. To make a horrifying scenario even worse, they heard testimony that she was alive when the top of her head was removed and probably survived for some time after the fact. With the evidence of what the victim had been forced to endure for hours on end staring them in the face, few in the jury box were able to conceal their emotions.

At one point, Olga had taken the stand to share her insights into the relationship between Leibel and Iana. While she freely admitted that he had seemed head over heels in love with her daughter, she was quick to add that his affections had shifted after Diana was born. It was apparent at that time that this man who had gotten everything he wanted his entire life wasn’t about to play second fiddle to anyone, even his own baby.

Throughout the proceedings, which lasted six days, Leibel was portrayed as a spoiled rich kid who had never grown up. Though it wasn’t brought out at trial, it was alleged that the defendant himself had openly acknowledged that he knew women were only attracted to his money. Keenly aware of the power that the almighty dollar wields, he had used his wealth to control the parade of models who drifted in and out of his life. When he was finished with one, there was always another waiting to take her place. When the relationships ended, it was he who hammered in the final nail, never the woman. That is, until Iana came along.

The defense called no witnesses, and Leibel wasn’t called to the stand to tell his story. Considering his complete denial of the facts, this decision was probably for the best.

Following three hours of deliberations, the jury found Blake Leibel guilty of mur*der and torture in the d*eath of Iana Kasian. On June 26, 2018, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. An appeal was launched soon afterwards, which was denied in April of 2020.

With his guilt solidified, Olga sued Leibel in civil court on both her and her granddaughter’s behalf for Iana’s wrongful de*ath. On February 15, 2019, she was awarded $41.6 million.

Today, Olga is raising Diana in Ukraine. As of this writing, no one on her father’s side of the family has ever shown any interest in getting to know the little girl that Blake Leibel helped bring into the world. As far as anyone knows, they have never met her, nor have they acknowledged her existence.

Her quest for the American dream having turned into a nightmare, Iana was laid to rest in her hometown of Kyiv, far from the bright lights of Hollywood.

As a result of Blake Leibel’s abhorrent actions, Diana — who was only two months old when her mother died — will only know her from pictures and news stories documenting her mur*der at the hands of a man she had once loved.

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