Produced by Alec Sirken and Gayane Keshishyan-Mendez
[This story first aired on Oct. 6, 2018. It was updated on July 13, 2019.]
A mother’s intuition that something is wrong with her daughter living in Los Angeles led police to a house of horrors. Inside, they found Iana Kasian, 30, brutally murdered. Where the trail of blood led them could easily be the subject of big-screen movie script or a novel.
Olga Kasian was concerned when she hadn’t heard from her daughter, who was living with Blake Leibel in West Hollywood. Leibel, the son of a wealthy Canadian real estate family, moved in his 20s to Hollywood to make it big. Living a trust-fund dream life, he directed an offbeat film and was the co-author of a graphic novel about a vicious murder.
“I had this feeling that something was wrong,” Olga Kasian tells “48 Hours” correspondent Maureen Maher.
Kasian called police, who eventually gained access to the home. Police found Iana, who recently gave birth to a daughter with Leibel, dead.
“In my almost 30 years, I’ve never been involved in a more heinous crime than this,” says Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. William Cotter.
At the time Kasian was killed, Leibel was in the process of divorcing his first wife. He left just before she gave birth to their second child. He also had a girlfriend on the side. And he had fallen in love with Ukrainian-born Iana Kasian, who, according to her mother, had moved to Los Angeles with a dream of living in a huge, strong country.
“I think for a lot of women, Blake was a good catch,” says Scott Johnson, a writer with “The Hollywood Reporter” and a “48 Hours” consultant.
Meanwhile, Leibel’s brother, Cody, was an amateur gambler playing high-stakes poker in a circuit called “Molly’s Game.” –which was later made into a popular Hollywood movie. Almost a year before he met Iana, Blake Leibel seemed obsessed with his notion that his brother had big gambling debts and that someone tied to the game may threaten – or harm – his family, according to Johnson.
Was Iana Kasian killed in revenge for a gambling debt? Was she killed because of Leibel’s complicated love life? Or did Leibel’s graphic novel provide investigators with clues they needed to solve the case?
IANA & BLAKE
As horror stories go, it doesn’t get any darker than the death of Iana Kasian, says Scott Johnson, a senior writer for The Hollywood Reporter and a “48 Hours” consultant.
Scott Johnson: In terms of murders, it’s far and way the most grisly awful story I’ve ever covered.
For Iana’s mother Olga Kasian, the news was unbearable.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I am the mom whose daughter was being murdered and I did not do anything to prevent that from happening.
Until the moment Olga learned Iana had been brutally killed, her 30 year-old daughter’s life had seemed charmed.
The sunny glamour of Los Angeles is about as far as you can get from the freezing winters of Kiev Ukraine.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: She wanted to live in a huge, strong country. She really loved it.
Iana was a tax lawyer and in her late 20s when she moved to L.A., where she was learning to work as a translator, says the family’s attorney, Jake Finkel.
Jake Finkel: Her biggest dream was to, you know, have children and raise a family here in the United States.
It seemed like all her dreams were about to come true when she met and fell in love with the incredibly wealthy Blake Leibel.
Scott Johnson: …he, by all accounts, was friendly …And people appreciated him.
Blake Leibel, an aspiring Hollywood producer, had millions of dollars, inherited from his family in Toronto.
Scott Johnson: He was sorta born into the lap of luxury.
But Blake’s life was complicated.
Scott Johnson: He had every advantage. But one of the things that I learned was that from a very early age, he—felt jealous of his brother’s attention from the father.
Maureen Maher: And were they close, or is this Cain and Abel?
Scott Johnson: I think it’s a little of both.
Cody, the older brother, developed real estate and owned a record label.
The family’s wealth came from both sides. On his mother’s side, Blake’s grandfather started a plastics empire, says Jake Edmiston, a reporter in Toronto for the National Post and is a “48 Hours” consultant.
Jake Edmiston: On the father’s side, he’s a major Toronto developer …So both of them brought a substantial amount of wealth to the marriage.
But the parents separated, and they separated the children. Cody would live with his father in the most expensive area of the city, while Blake was raised by his mother in what many considered to be the second most expensive area in Toronto.
Maureen Maher: Would you say that this a neighborhood where, if children are growing up here, this is a life of privilege?
Jake Edmiston: I would say wealth and privilege, yeah.
But in Blake’s case, money did not mean happiness. His relationship with his father was strained. After his mother died in 2011, Blake waged a court battle over her estate.
Maureen Maher: What was the estate worth?
Jake Edmiston: Millions and millions of dollars.
According to court records, about $12 million. Blake ended up with less than half, which, by most accounts, was still a lot of money.
He continued his quest to write and direct in Hollywood.
Maureen Maher: Was he taken seriously, or is this just a rich kid who came in and it was pay to play?
Scott Johnson: Some people found him to be sort of like a goofy trust funder who — was just sort of playing — with Daddy’s money … But other people said that he was hardworking … that he you know poured his energies into these projects and really wanted to succeed.
Blake directed a low-budget film called “Bald,” about a college student who tries to raise money for his hair transplant by creating a website featuring female students.
He worked on an animated series called “Spaceballs” that stemmed from a Mel Brooks movie. But his biggest project was a graphic novel called “Syndrome,” that he hoped to turn into a television show.
Blake’s ambition — and probably his money — drew beautiful women to him. In 2006, long before Iana was in Los Angeles, he met Amanda Braun, a model who would become his wife.
Scott Johnson: His wife Amanda was and has been described as … the one who would, you know, urge them … to go to the Chateau Marmont, to get out, see people, go to parties. And he was kinda more retiring and liked to stay at home … and look at comics. He was — he was sort of a homebody.
The couple had a son together, but just as another baby was on the way, Blake picked up and left.
Scott Johnson: He left her very abruptly in the summer of 2015. She was about to give birth to their second child. And he took up with this woman, Iana Kasian.
And he told Iana his marriage was over.
Scott Johnson: It looks like things are actually going pretty well. They’re taking trips. …there’s lots of dinners out. He buys her a very expensive Mercedes.
They moved into a condo. And in a matter of months, Iana was pregnant by Blake.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: It was amazing news. We were so happy. All of us were so happy.
Olga was aware Blake’s romantic life was rather unsettled, to say the least.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: He– kept telling Ianachka that he was either already divorced or in the process of divorcing his wife.
Olga flew to L.A. to meet the man who said he was going to marry her daughter, and to help with the baby. A few days later, a little girl named Diana was born on Olga’s 60th birthday.
Maureen Maher: Iana was happy?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: She was very happy. …And he too.
In the first few days after Diana was born, Blake certainly seemed content with his new family.
Maureen Maher: Did he seem like– a good man and– and was he kind to Iana?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: Yes, because — he always kissed her and he kept saying … in Russian … “My beloved.”
That picture of the happy family was a stark contrast to a fear Blake had of losing it all.
Scott Johnson: And he was expressing these fears in these text messages to a very close friend.
In Blake’s mind, he believed that his brother Cody had big gambling debts and that those poker playing Russian mobsters posed a serious threat to everyone Blake loved.
A COMPLICATED PERSONAL LIFE
Unlike his younger brother Blake, Cody Leibel lived loud.
Scott Johnson | The Hollywood Reporter: He’s a big man about town … loves fast cars, a fast lifestyle … he was much more of a public figure and a public presence.
Cody was an amateur gambler who played in a local high stakes poker circuit depicted in the movie “Molly’s Game,” frequented by celebrities and some shady rich men — including, reportedly, members of the Russian mafia.
Scott Johnson: Close friends of both Cody and Blake have told me that Cody … in at least one case was taken for a large amount of money by some of these other more experienced poker players.
Maureen Maher: How large?
Scott Johnson: Over $1 million, I heard.
Scott Johnson: Blake was afraid that people associated with the gambling game posed a mortal threat to him and members of his family.
As Blake’s earlier texts revealed. But as investigators began to unravel Iana’s murder, they discovered more immediate pressures on Blake that painted a disturbing picture.
Scott Johnson: He had made choices that ensnared him with three different women simultaneously, and that that was kind of catching up to him.
In early 2016 Blake Leibel’s personal life had become very complicated. He had moved out of his house in Beverly Hills and was in the throes of a divorce from his wife Amanda. Meanwhile, he was living at a West Hollywood condo with Iana. On top of that, he was seing a third woman, Constance Buccafurri, who lived in a posh little home a couple miles away — which was also owned by Blake.
His life had become an unwieldy love-hate quadrangle.
Maureen Maher [with detectives in front of Constance’s house): So he was going between Iana and Constance, the condo and this house.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: And this house. That’s correct. …He’s living multiple lives.
Homicide detectives Rob Martindale and Bill Cotter investigated Iana’s murder for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. They say that in mid-May 2016, less than a week before Iana’s killing, Constance accused Blake of sexually assaulting her in that house.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: I believe that something occurred here. Some unwanted touching occurred in this house by Blake.
Blake Leibel was arrested and held in jail. Iana had to help bail him out.
Jake Finkel | Kasian family attorney: …and it probably was a source for tension between the two.
Blake was never prosecuted, but his affair was revealed to Iana.
Jake Finkel: And she must’ve been asking Blake like, “What’s going on here? Like,” We just had a baby together. Like, “Why — why aren’t you at home helping me with the kid? I need your help.”
Olga says her daughter’s dream of life in America was quickly turning into a nightmare. Iana was so afraid of losing Blake she agreed to let her newborn daughter live with her mother in a separate apartment a few miles away, paid for by Blake. That way, Iana could focus on her relationship with Blake, who had suddenly become uninterested in the new baby.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: He constantly demanded sex, and that he could leave her for another woman.
Iana was still recovering from a C-section.
Maureen Maher: He threatened to leave her for another woman if she didn’t have sex with him?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: Yes, he even said that to her.
To Olga, Iana seemed intimidated by Blake.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: He was controlling her like a hawk. He wanted her to do everything he wanted.
Olga begged her daughter to move on from Blake and move in with her and the baby.
Maureen Maher: And what would she say?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: She would run back to him.
On May 23, 2016, Iana went shopping with her mother. Later in the day, Olga says, Iana started getting texts from Blake.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: Upon receiving those texts she would change like a chameleon. …Her facial expression changed, after those texts she would say, “I’m going to him.”
Maureen Maher: So she left?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: She did.
The next afternoon, Olga had trouble reaching her daughter.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I did try to call her and — the calls went to the voice message.
Six calls with no response.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: …all of a sudden, I had this feeling that I had to go there.
Call it mother’s intuition.
Maureen Maher: Just out of the blue you had — a feeling that you had to go to Iana and check on her —
Olga Kasian [via translator]: Yes. …I wanted to go there. But the baby was sleeping.
She called police.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: They put me on hold for a very long time and then eventually they found a girl who could speak Russian.
Maureen Maher: After you called the police, do they go to the condo to check on her?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I don’t know. I called them again and again and again.
Finally, she decided it was up to her.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: The morning after, I just called a taxi and rushed there myself.
OLGA KASIAN TO 911: Help, help me …
Sgt. Rob Martindale: She was like — a tiger tryin’ to get to her cub. She wanted — to get in that room.
A MOTHER’S WORST FEAR
By Wednesday morning, Olga Kasian was frantic. For two days she had not seen her daughter. Olga went to Iana and Blake’s condo with a friend and tried desperately to get into the gated property.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: … and I went across the street from that building to look at the patio.
Olga says she looked up at their third floor apartment and saw a man standing in the window.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I started calling, “Blake, Blake.”
There was no response.
Maureen Maher: You saw Blake inside from the street?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I did.
Then, another resident opened the gate.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I ran to that apartment. I was knocking at the door. I was … I was ringing the bell.
There was no answer. So again, she called police.
This time, uniformed officers showed up.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: …and I kept telling them, “here he is, here he is. Break the door.” And they said that they had no right to break the door because they couldn’t hear anybody screaming inside.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: There was also no indication that there was any foul play goin’ on at that time. …So the decision was made at that time not to go into the — the complex.
Police tried to call Blake:
POLICE VOICE MESSAGE: Hello, this message is for Blake Leibel. This is … the West Hollywood Sheriff’s station … We are at your apartment and we need to speak to you immediately, sir.
Blake did not respond. Police waited outside for a few hours and then eventually left.
Maureen Maher: Are you angry that they didn’t respond and listen to you on that Tuesday and on Wednesday?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I am angry.
Angry and overwhelmed. Convinced Iana was inside, Olga was torn. She did not want to leave Blake’s condo, but she had to get back home to her infant granddaughter who was being cared for by a friend.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I was feeling that fear; a fear of police, fear of leaving the baby alone.
The next morning, Thursday, Olga was back at the apartment and back on the phone begging the police for help:
911 OPERATOR: Please hold for your Russian interpreter.
OLGA KASIAN [via translator]: I want the police to come and free my daughter.
Finally, police agreed it was time to go in. They were concerned that Iana might be in medical distress because she had recently given birth.
911 OPERATOR [to translator]: Tell her we’ll go ahead and send somebody over — [Olga yells: “Help me!”] — but she has to be there.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: When they arrived, I wanted to lead them upstairs to the third floor … but … They told me to sit near the main entrance to the building.
Maureen Maher: So you’re sitting outside and they all go inside –
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I was outside, sitting on the sidewalk.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: After calling out “Sheriff’s Department,” yelling out Blake’s name, Iana’s name and no answer … They finally obtained a key from the realtor. … But when they unlocked it, tried to go inside … they encounter those hotel-style locks. Which tells them that somebody’s got to be in there. So the decision was made to breach that door.
Police break down the front door and enter the condo.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: The living room is kind of in a disheveled look.
Police immediately ran into several other obstacles. First, the hallway door into the bedrooms was locked and barricaded.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: So they were forced to actually take the door off the hinges.
As police look into the guest bedroom, they see the first signs of a struggle: blood.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: They call out again to Blake. Still no answer. Still no movement.
After clearing the guest bedroom, they move toward the master bedroom, but that door is also barricaded — with a mattress.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: So as they’re trying to push forward, the mattress is pushing it back. But at that same time, a man yells out. Blake Leibel. He is basically sayin’ he’s not comin’ out.
Blake tells police Iana isn’t home.
Blake calls a friend, seen on surveillance tape, rushing into the condo. The friend convinces Blake to open the door and come out of the bedroom. Wearing only boxer shorts, Blake emerges from the room.
Homicide detectives Cotter and Martindale are then called to the scene.
Sgt. William Cotter: …been to a lotta crime scenes over the years. But — walking into that one was– was just different. …Stepping into the hallway that led to the bedrooms, then things started to appear.
They entered the guest bedroom.
Sgt. William Cotter: You started to see blood … saw the bloody headboard, blood on the walls.
Then the master bedroom.
Det. William Cotter: There was an obvious large blood stain on the wall that — someone had tried to clean up.
And then they saw Iana.
Sgt. William Cotter: At that point, she was covered to the bottom of her chin.
Iana was covered in a Mickey Mouse blanket. At first, she looked almost peaceful.
Sgt. William Cotter: Once her head was off of the pillow, then you could see the full — damage.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: The injuries she suffered were horrific and unspeakable.
Iana had been scalped. Her body was eerily and unusually pale.
Sgt. William Cotter: It wasn’t simply the killing of somebody. It was —
Sgt. Rob Martindale: Sadistic
Blake had scratches and bruises on his face and a bite mark on his arm.
Maureen Maher: She fought.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: She fought valiantly.
Sgt. William Cotter: Fought hard.
Police also found a pair of Blake’s pants, with his passport and $4,000 stuffed in a pocket.
Maureen Maher: What did it tell you?
Sgt. Rob Martindale: That this was a man who … was probably gonna dispose of Iana completely, clean up the condo, and then probably flee this country back to his native Canada.
Police arrest Blake. By then, Olga had made her way into the building.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: And then I saw Blake handcuffed. And they were leading him out. …I did not really pay attention to him. I kept looking at that door because I thought that they would … bring my Iana out. …I was crying out. I was screaming, “Where is my daughter?”
Sgt. Rob Martindale [standing in the hallway outside the apartment]: Right here on the floor right behind you is where Olga was leaning against the wall.
Maureen Maher: This is where you had to tell Olga.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: This is where I had to inform her that her daughter had been killed.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I tried to crawl to that apartment. I was screaming. But they did not let me in.
Detectives questioned Blake — seen oddly smiling in his arrest photo — but he denied having anything to do with Iana’s gruesome death or the horrific crime scene.
Maureen Maher: Did he give any explanation of what he thought happened to Iana, like, “Who would’ve done this to her?”
Sgt. Rob Martindale: He gave no reasonable explanation, actually no explanation at all, other than he said– really the important thing was, “Science is gonna tell you who did this.”
And the science would shock everyone.
Sgt. William Cotter: For me, it was like, “What the hell happened?”
Blake Leibel told police the science would tell them just what happened to Iana Kasian, and it did.
Leslie Thompson is a crime scene specialist with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. Using animation which was created for the prosecution, she explains what she saw when she entered the condo.
Leslie Thompson: So what really struck me about this scene in general was really the lack of blood that was —
Maureen Maher: The lack of blood?
Leslie Thompson: The lack of blood that was present.
For a murder this brutal, she expected a lot more. So where did it all go? Thompson set up a demonstration.
Maureen Maher: All right, so you’ve prepped this for us. This is a piece of linoleum that you’ve put animal blood.
Leslie Thompson: That’s correct.
Maureen Maher: And to my naked eye here, what I see is just some spatter right here.
Thompson showed “48 Hours” how she can analyze what happened even if there is not a lot see.
Leslie Thompson: OK, so this is actually — I like to call it “luminol 2.0.” … it’s called Bluestar Magnum (Ph).
It’s a chemical compound that when sprayed on a surface, reveals where blood was and where a cleaning substance was used to remove it.
Leslie Thompson: It creates a luminescence, or it creates light. …It’s a search tool for blood that you cannot see with the naked eye.
Maureen Maher: OK. Let’s see what it does. [Lights are turned off]
Maureen Maher: Wow. Oh, you can see the footprints, the wiping.
When investigators first came into the master bedroom, they noticed some blood stains on the mattress, but that was all they could see. After the addition of Bluestar, the room lit up.
Then, the bathroom.
Maureen Maher: OK. Now bring up the Bluestar. Wow. And so this– none of this you could really see clearly?
Leslie Thompson: You couldn’t see it at all.
The guest bedroom also lit up. In fact, much of the condo was splashed with luminescence.
Sgt. William Cotter: –it lit up. And it lit up in a bad way … even though we had been in there now for two days, until she did that, and lit this up, and then all of a sudden … at least I gained a much better appreciation for what happened there.
Maureen Maher: What was the story it said to you about Iana and what happened to her?
Leslie Thompson: The story was … this event didn’t just happen quickly in one location.
Leslie Thompson: The blood evidence in this case told me that this was a prolonged and brutal crime.
Perhaps most shocking of all is how Iana died. It’s called exsanguination.
Maureen Maher: There’s a new vocabulary word. I’ve been a crime reporter for 25 years, and I’ve not heard this one.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: First time I’ve heard it as well.
Exsanguination: meaning the blood had been drained from her body. That’s why Iana was so pale.
Detectives believe it took between six and eight hours for her to die.
It was clear Iana’s killer had tried to cover up any incriminating blood evidence — wiping down floors and walls — but where did all those cleaning materials, as well as the bedding and clothing go?
Almost immediately after they arrived, detectives noticed how close the trash chute was to the apartment.
Cotter and his team collected 11 trash bags from the dumpsters, each filled with an abundance of evidence: towels, clothing and bedding.
One particular item stood out: a bedskirt with a bloody handprint, where it appears part of the pinky finger is missing. It turns out Blake was missing part of his right pinky finger.
Maureen Maher [in front of dumpster] Match for match … Pinky missing.
Sgt. William Cotter: Yes.
Everything at the scene pointed to Blake as the killer.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: There was no other suspects. …it was clear as to what occurred.
This murder had nothing to do with Russian mobsters or jealous girlfriends. There’s no concrete evidence that Cody Leibel actually had big gambling debts; only that Blake believed he did.
In fact, Blake never mentioned any scenario that pointed away from him.
Also, it wasn’t a drug-fueled attack; only a small amount of marijuana was found in his system. So why did Blake kill Iana? Detectives struggled to find a motive.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: I was trying to extract something to explain what can cause a man to do this to a woman he professed to love and was engaged to.
Maureen Maher: Did you get anything from that interview that answered that question?
Sgt. Rob Martindale: When he said, “Women don’t like me.” And he alluded to the fact that, “If it wasn’t for money, women wouldn’t like me.” I think that he’s the person that controlled the women in his life with money.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: And I think … at some point … there was probably — “No” was said to him. And I think he said, “You don’t say, ‘No,’ to me, because I control the pocketbook.” And I think that ultimately caused her demise.
Still, a crime this unconscionable does not usually come out of nowhere, which is why detectives even tried looking into Blake’s background.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: We ran into roadblocks. Not a lotta people would talk to us, and none of his family would.
“48 Hours” also searched for answers. We approached virtually everyone we could find who knew Blake from his early life in Toronto: his family members, schoolmates, teachers. We asked everyone in L.A. in his adult life: his wife, his girlfriends, his friends, but nobody — not one of them — was willing to go on camera and talk about him.
Maureen Maher: Did you find anything in his background, any history, any whiff of a story that he was a violent or abusive or strange kid or teenager?
Jake Edmiston | Toronto Reporter: No. …and speaking to people who knew him in different phases of his life, all of them are as shocked as we are.
Dr. Kris Mohandie | Forensic Psychologist: The big question is, he must be crazy. Look at what he did. You know, he’s tortured this woman.
But Blake Leibel is not crazy says forensic psychologist and “48 Hours” consultant Kris Mohandie, who worked with the prosecution on this case.
Dr. Kris Mohandie: So you can do outrageous, heinous, terrible things to other people, but that’s different than being found insane or incompetent in the eyes of the law.
Mohandie never met Blake, but a court-ordered psychiatrist did and found Blake fit to stand trial. Mohandie says that’s because Blake understands right from wrong, which is the legal standard.
Dr. Kris Mohandie: It’s shocking what he did, but it’s not surprising what he did.
Mohandie points to Blake’s background — a rich kid, alienated from his father at a young age, with a need for power and control over women.
Dr. Kris Mohandie: He’s always gotten everything he wants when he wants it, but he also has an underlying violent fantasy life that he’s been mentally rehearsing for years. And so when the rage comes out, it takes the form of those fantasies.
The fantasies? Remember that graphic novel Blake was working on years before Iana’s murder? It turns out, it was about a vicious killer and it was soon to take center stage in Blake’s story.
In June 2018, two years after Iana’s murder, a very different looking Blake Leibel went on trial. Even without a clear motive, Prosecutor Beth Silverman was sure once the jury saw that graphic novel, they would convict him of Iana’s murder
Prosecutor Beth Silverman [in court]: This crime appears to be patterned after the defendant’s book, “Syndrome.”
But would it be enough?
SEEKING JUSTICE FOR IANA
Prosecutor Beth Silverman believes Blake Leibel was acting out a fantasy from his graphic novel, which shows a doll with its scalp missing on the cover. Inside, there’s more chilling details.
Prosecutor Beth Silverman [closing statement]: What this book provides, this “Syndrome,” it provides a blueprint for this murder. …the depiction of two victims hanging upside down in order to drain the blood, or to exsanguinate the blood from these fictional bodies.
Prosecutors say that during the prolonged period Blake was torturing Iana, he somehow manages to have food delivered several times, as security footage shows.
Prosecutor Beth Silverman: We know that the defendant had ample time to stop and change his mind. …He chose to commit these horrendous crimes against Iana Kasian.
They also present all that blood evidence from the crime scene.
Prosecutor Beth Silverman: Just to be clear this is all the victim’s blood. … How a human could do such a thing.
And along with the jury, Olga sees dozens of graphic photos of Iana.
Maureen Maher: Why did you feel the need to sit through the trial and to sit through the details?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I am her mom. … And I must put all her pain through me.
… I ask them to give me those pictures, those photos. I wanted to hug each of those photos and kiss each of those photos.
Olga says someone who loved Iana needed to bear witness to all that she had gone through.
Blake’s brother, Cody Leibel, was in court every day, but declined “48 Hours”‘ request for an interview. Their father did not attend the trial.
After six days of testimony from 14 prosecution witnesses, the defense calls none of its own. Instead, laywer Haydeh Takasugi tries to create reasonable doubt, arguing that Blake didn’t actually author that graphic novel — he hired writers.
Haydeh Takasugi | Defense Attorney [closing ststament]: They brought the story to life … And it was presented to Mr. Leibel for his approval.
Haydeh Takasugi: And we believe, as is your duty as jurors, you will critically look at the evidence, we believe that you will realize its shortcomings and downfalls. …the only verdict in this case would be not guilty for the charges and all the special allegations.
But the prosecution has the last word.
Prosecutor Beth Silverman: This obviously was a vicious, a horrific, a gruesome, sadistic, unspeakably evil set of crimes … And it’s your job in this case to seek justice.
It takes the jury just three hours to reach a verdict:
COURT CLERK: We the jury … find the defendantof Iana Kasian
Blake shows no emotion. But out in the hallway, Olga is overcome.
Translator: She just wants to scream “Yanichka, Yanichka.” “I’m sorry — I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.”
Maureen Maher: When you heard the verdict — you’re very emotional about it.
Sgt. William Cotter: Yeah. Given what we knew about the case … I did take it home. And it — it hung like — like a picture on the wall for me … I mean, I have two daughters. Rob has one daughter. You know, as fathers, there’s that paternal instinct.
Olga says while she appreciates the detectives, she is also haunted by the knowledge that her instinct to call the police was not enough to save her daughter.
Maureen Maher: Do you believe if they had broken down the door on Wednesday, when you were there with them, that she would still be here today?
Olga Kasian [via translator]: I think so, yes.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: It’s a difficult question to answer. But I think based on if we look at the timeline from the pathologist standpoint … I believe she might have already been dead at that point.
Blake is sentenced to life in prison without parole.
With both Blake and Iana gone, the focus is now on their 2-year-old daughter Diana.
Sgt. Rob Martindale: Nothing can ever make the death of Iana right, but I am hoping the Leibel family does something honorable, and assist in her time of need.
But Olga says she has never heard from anyone in the Leibel family.
Jake Finkel: I mean, one would think that, you know, they would attempt to reach out to Olga, seeing as that Olga’s granddaughter is also a granddaughter of Blake’s father and a niece to Blake’s brother. …there has not been one cent paid from their family to support Diana.
More than anything in the world, Iana wanted her daughter to be brought up in America. But because of a lack of money, Diana is now living in Ukraine — in the town where Iana was laid to rest.
Olga Kasian [via translator]: For some reason, I want to keep talking about her. It makes my life easier … I feel her presence every day, every minute.
Last February the Kasian family won a wrongful death civil suit against Blake Leibel and was awarded a settlement of $41.6 million. They have yet to receive any money.