Interior designer Jade Janks, 39, is found guilty of killing ex-stepdad by a court in San Diego, California
Jade Janks was found guilty Wednesday of killing her former stepfather at his Californian home on New Year’s Eve in 2020
She’s accused of drugging and strangling Thomas Merriman, 64, who was once married to her mother
Court threw out defense argument that the victim had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and died from natural causes
Janks had found out several days earlier that Thomas Merriman, 64, was using her naked photos as a screensaver on his computer – her search turned up more than 100 of her nude images
Janks found the photos while cleaning Merriman’s apartment after he had been hospitalized in San Diego
She picked him up from hospital and gave him an overdose of pills, admitting in texts to friends she killed him, however, to some friends she said he had cancer
Prosecutors tendered messages she sent to friends, one read: ‘I just dosed the hell out of him. Stopping for whiskey at Dixieland to stall. LMK’
A Californian interior designer has been found guilty of killing her former stepfather while claiming he died of cancer.
Jade Janks killed Thomas Merriman after she found her naked photos being used as a screensaver.
Janks, 39, faces life in prison after the jury in Vista took less than a day to find her guilty of killing Thomas Merriman, 64, on New Year’s Eve in 2020.
She told most friends he had died from cancer, but in text messages to others confessed to killing him with an overdose of pills.
‘This was no accident,’ said Jorge Del Portillo, Deputy District Attorney.
‘This was murder by design,’ Portillo told the North County Superior Court.
Merriman, a butterfly park owner who was divorced from Janks’ mother but to whom the family remained close, was in hospital following a fall.
Janks’ trial for the murder of Merriman, the co-founder of a popular butterfly farm in Encinitas, began Dec. 7. She took the stand last week.
Janks testified that although her mother and Thomas Merriman were long divorced, she still took care of him, and he referred to Janks as his daughter.
A few years ago, Merriman and Janks ended up as next door neighbors. She was tidying up Merriman’s apartment while he was in a medical facility in late December 2020 when she bumped his computer, and it awoke with her nude photo as the screensaver.
Horrified, she searched the computer and found hundreds more images.
The images were several years old, some dating back to her late teens, and included those taken consensually with a former boyfriend.
Janks believes her former stepfather had swiped the photos from her laptop and from a long-missing digital camera.
She had planned to confront Merriman, Janks testified. Furthermore, because they were neighbors who shared a driveway on South Nardo Avenue, she wanted him to move away.
Janks’ mother and Merriman who struggled with alcohol abuse and addictions divorced in 2008 after 13 years, and multiple instances of domestic abuse.
District Attorney Del Portillo said that Janks was ‘beyond freaked out’ for find the photos, and immediately began plotting how to kill him.
His body was found under a pile of trash outside of his home on January 2. Toxicologists found an overdose of drugs in his system, but no evidence of strangulation – although prosecutors claimed Janks strangled him.
Janks insisted in court that he died of natural causes. Her attorney, Marc Carlos, said Merriman died due to ill health and his own cocktail of sleeping pills.
Carlos added: ‘Jade Janks loved her stepfather. Tom Merriman loved Jade Janks.
‘Unfortunately, Tom Merriman was a troubled individual, and he loved her in different ways.’
Merriman’s body was found under trash bags by police outside of his home in Solano Beach. Officers had gone to the home to conduct a welfare check.
Prosecutors say that Janks told others that she killed Merriman.
A former friend of Janks’, Sarah Jacobs, testified that Janks told her about the photo but said that didn’t indicate that Merriman would face any repercussions.
Jacobs described the photo as showing Janks ‘scantily clad.’
This week, prosecutors showed text messages in court that Janks sent to various friends.
They read: ‘I just dosed the hell out of him. Stopping for whiskey at Dixieland to stall. LMK.’
‘He’s waking up. I really don’t want to be the one to do this.’
‘I can’t carry him alone and I can’t keep a kicking body in my trunk.’
‘I am about to club him on the head as he is waking up.’
‘I’m not strong enough. He is very aware now and I am on my own.’
A friend who did answer her call for help, Adam Siplyak, went to the home on New Year’s Eve but said he would not help her to get rid of the body.
The following day, he went to the police to report what happened.
Janks originally told him that she needed help getting Merriman home because he was high on pills.
However, when Siplyak showed up, she confessed what happened.
The lead detective in the case, Lisa Brannan said in court: ‘Ms. Janks told Mr. Siplyak that she killed her stepfather and she said, ‘I suffocated him with a bag and I choked him.’ She also said that she gave him a bunch of drugs.’
The detective continued: ‘She wanted his help with getting the body out of her car.
‘She wanted to take her stepfather to his home and put him in his bed.
‘She wanted to look like he had overdosed in his bed as he had died in his bed.’
After refusing to help her, Siplyak said: ‘I have a son to raise.’
The arresting officer later testified, San Diego Sheriff’s Office Matthew Gibson, he said that Janks was calm when she was arrested.
Janks was free on a $1 million bail albeit with a GPS anklet.
At the time her bail was set, prosecutors argued that the suspect has the financial resources to flee and connections in South Africa.
Janks’ biological father, Steve Janks, is a native of South Africa and now lives in Southern California.
She owner of a start-up interior design business, Jank Janks Interiors.
Merriman and Janks’ mother Jeni married in July 1995. The couple had a son together, Cash.
Merriman had another daughter from a previous relationship.
The couple filed for divorce on multiple occasions during that time, finally doing so in 2008.
In 2013, Merriman founded the Butterfly Farm, a nonprofit, alongside his friend Pat Flanagan.