Interior designer Jade Janks was found guilty on Wednesday of drugging and strangling him to death her former stepdad after finding her nude photos on his computer. Janks, 39, now faces life in prison. The jury in Vista took less than a day to convict Janks, 39, guilty of killing Thomas Merriman, 64, on New Year's Eve in 2020.
The Californian was convicted of first-degree murder of Merriman. Janks designer told the majority of her friends that he former stepdad had died of cancer in a few text messages to some of her friends also admitted that she had killed him with a pill overdose.
Throughout the trial, Janks insisted she was innocent and denied killing Merriman on December 31, 2020. Instead, she said that he passed away from an illness. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Janks did acknowledge that she was horrified to see more than 100 photos of herself in her underwear on his computer.
"This was no accident," Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo told jurors in the North County Superior Court. "This was murder by design."
Merriman, the owner of a butterfly park and ex-husband of Janks' mother but still a close family friend, was in the hospital after suffering a fall.
When Janks went to clean his house, she accidentally bumped into his computer and found her naked photo as a screensaver.
According to local sources, Janks had taken the pictures consensually with her then-boyfriend more than ten years ago. It is unclear how Merriman gained access to the private pictures. He reportedly used one of the naked pictures as his screensaver.
Janks' mother divorced Merriman in 2008 after 13 years and numerous incidents of domestic abuse.
Killing a Criminal
Del Portillo claimed that after discovering the photos, Janks was "beyond freaked out" and started formulating plans to kill Merriman. Janks argued in court that he died of natural causes.
Additionally, the attorneys showed the jury texts that Janks sent after bringing him up from the hospital, in which she claimed to have "dosed the hell out of him."
As he woke up, Janks texted, " I am about to club him on the head as he is waking up." They claimed that she told two different people that she had killed him.
Merriman, a co-founder of a well-known butterfly farm in Encinitas, died as a result of poor health and his own combination of sleeping pills, her attorney, Marc Carlos, said.
On January 2, Merriman's body was found buried under some garbage outside of his house. Despite the fact that Janks was accused of strangling him by the prosecution, toxicologists only discovered a drug overdose in his system and no signs of strangulation.
"Jade Janks loved her stepfather. Tom Merriman loved Jade Janks," Carlos added.
"Unfortunately, Tom Merriman was a troubled individual, and he loved her in different ways."
During the trial, Carlos made sure to criticize Merriman's behavior.
"Jade Janks loved her stepfather," he said. "Tom Merriman loved Jade Janks. Unfortunately, Tom Merriman was a troubled individual, and he loved her in different ways."
Sarah Jacobs, a former friend of Janks, testified that Janks had told her about the nude photo but claimed this didn't mean Merriman would suffer any consequences.
Jacobs called the photo of Janks "scantily clad." Adam Siplyak, a friend who had responded to her need for assistance, visited the house on New Year's Eve but declined to help with the body removal.
He went to the police the next day to report what had transpired. He was initially informed by Janks that Merriman was high on medications and she needed assistance getting him home.
However, when Siplyak arrived, she admitted what had happened.