Jade Janks, the 39-year-old Solana Beach interior designer convicted of murdering her stepfather, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on Monday.
The judge says Janks will be eligible for parole in 25 years. As previously reported, in December, a jury found Janks guilty of killing her stepfather, Tom Merriman, after she found hundreds of nude photos of herself on his computer.
Photos were from Janks' Previous Relationship with Her Boyfriend
Janks testified she was cleaning Merriman's home in December of 2020 when she bumped his computer and discovered the photos, including one used as a screensaver. The photos were taken more than a decade ago, consensually, by Janks and her boyfriend, authorities said. It's unclear how they came into Merriman's possession.
Janks claimed as she drove Merriman home from the hospital, he was drinking and he passed out in her SUV and that she let him sleep it off in the driveway, then found him dead the next day. However, Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo said Janks drugged Merriman with sleeping and pain pills on the way home, then suffocated him by putting a plastic bag over his head and strangling him.
Text Messages Led to Janks' Prosecution
Her defense argued he overdosed on sleeping pills in her car, and Janks hid the body under a pile of garbage next to his home because she didn't want to be blamed for his death.
However, text messages sent out from Janks phone eventually led to her prosecution. Janks texted another man about giving Merriman the pills, according to prosecutors. "I just dosed the hell out of him. Stopping for whiskey then at Dixieland to stall. LMK," Janks wrote in texts sent on the day she picked Merriman up from the hospital, according to Del Portillo.
Janks seems to second guess her plan in another text message the prosecutors shared. "He's waking up," one alleged text read, according to NBC San Diego. "I really don't want to be the one to do this."
"I am about to club him on the head as he is waking up," another read. Prosecutors allege Janks next contacted a friend of hers. After he arrived, Janks allegedly told him that she had killed Merriman and wanted help moving the body. Prosecutors say he also left, then called police the next day.
Janks Says She was 'Shattered' After Finding the Nude Photos
"Tom came into my life when I was just a little girl and exerted influence during that early stage of development when I was still figuring things out," said Janks during her statement to the court Monday.
"Unfortunately, that influence manifested itself into inappropriate touch, coercion, reckless behavior and complete violation of what I now realize was years of psychological manipulation. All of this came crashing down on me when I found hundreds of naked photos of myself on his computer. I felt shattered," she said.
"I'm sorry I didn't act the way I was supposed to that day," she added. "I think about it every day since. And to Tom's family, I understand you hate me for what you believe I did to Tom, however, there's a lot more than you'll ever understand," she said.