VISTA, Calif. — After a little over one day of deliberations, a jury in North County found Jade Janks, 39, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her stepdad after finding nude photos of her on the stepfather's computer.
The verdict is the end of a week-plus murder trial of interior designer Jade Janks, 39, who prosecutors say drugged her stepfather, Tom Merriman, and strangled him on December 31, 2020.
Merriman was a prominent North County businessman who was the co-founder of Butterfly Farms in Encinitas.
During the week-long trial, prosecutors argued that Janks planned the murder of her stepfather after she found hundreds of nude photos of her on his computer. The photos were, according to Janks' attorney, organized by body part and were taken while Janks was in the shower and during other instances, dating back when Janks was as young as 16 years old.
Prosecutors said they found text messages that Janks sent to friends on the day that Merriman died. Among the texts read in court included one sent on the day of Merriman's death, "I just dosed the hell our of him," while another read "it's pretty much done."
However, Janks' defense attorneys argued that Janks sent the text messages days after she discovered the cache of nude photos on his computer while she was cleaning his house.
"It was the most violating, awful, gut-wrenching feeling ever. I felt sick, I felt I couldn't... even touch my own skin. I don't know if there [are] words, not even in a movie have I seen something so sick," testified Janks during the trial.
Janks' attorneys also argued that Merriman was an alcoholic who would often mix liquor with sleeping pills.
Janks faces 25 years to life in state prison when she is sentenced, which is currently set for an April 3 hearing.