Los Angeles - A Los Angeles judge has ordered a graphic novelist from a wealthy Canadian family to pay 41.6 million dollars to the family of his fiancee, whom he brutally tortured and killed in 2016.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Bobbi Tillmon delivered the verdict after a bench trial in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Iana Kasian's family against Blake Leibel, who carried out the gruesome killing using a book he worked on years earlier as a blueprint.
"This murder didn't just kill one person, it really did kill the family; it shattered the family. And the family has had a hard time crawling back from this," said Jake Finkel, an attorney representing Kasian's family.
Leibel, who is imprisoned in the California state prison at Tehachapi, did not attend the trial, nor did an attorney or family member on his behalf, Finkel said.
Leibel, a scion of a powerful Canadian family who once had a fledgeling Hollywood career, was convicted last year of first-degree murder, aggravated mayhem and torture, and is now serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Before sheriff's deputies arrested Leibel at the West Hollywood apartment he shared with Kasian, he had blocked doorways with mattresses and locked himself in a bedroom with Kasian's mangled body.
Prosecutors told jurors during Leibel's trial that he had used a sharp object - perhaps the green paring knife or bloodied razor found in the couple's bathroom - and his bare hands to cut and rip pieces of Kasian's scalp. Most of the blood was drained from her body. She died of severe blood loss.
Kasian was alive during much of the torture and died "a very slow, excruciating, painful death," Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said. The killing was patterned after "Syndrome," a graphic novel that Leibel helped create years earlier, she said. Its cover shows a baby doll with a partially removed scalp.
Leibel moved to California in 2004, after which he married, had a son and lived primarily off an allowance from his parents - instalments that totalled 1.8 million dollars over about seven years, according to legal documents filed after his mother's death in 2011.
He also worked on the animated series "Spaceballs," based on the 1987 film by Mel Brooks, and collaborated with a team of writers and an illustrator to develop "Syndrome."
In July 2015, court records show, he filed for divorce from his wife and soon after, Kasian was pregnant. She called her mother, Olga, saying her longtime dream of becoming a parent was finally coming true, according to a declaration filed in the family's lawsuit.
Prosecutors argued at the trial that Leibel was jealous of the attention Kasian gave to their newborn, Diana, when he killed her.
Kasian grew up in Ukraine, where she worked for several years as an attorney prosecuting tax crimes. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2014.