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Woman Convicted Of Killing Former Stepfather After Finding Her Nude Pics On His Computer
Interior designer Jade Janks allegedly killed her former stepfather, Tom Merriman, after discovering his computer contained hundreds of stolen and non-consensual naked images of her dating back to her teen years.
A California woman was found guilty of planning her former stepfather’s murder after seeing nude images of herself on his computer.
Jade Sasha Janks, 39, was convicted Wednesday on charges of first-degree murder for the 2020 homicide of her one-time stepfather, Tom Merriman, 64, according to CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB-TV. The decision by a North San Diego County jury came after a week-long trial and just over a day of deliberations.
Prosecutors alleged Janks drugged and strangled Merriman — who had been divorced from Janks’ mother for almost 20 years — on Dec. 31, 2020. Authorities found his body on Jan. 2, 2021 under a pile of trash in the driveway of his Solana Beach residence, which is about 20 miles north of San Diego.
Prosecutors stated Merriman died of a combination of strangulation, suffocation and a lethal dose of prescription medications. The medical examiner noted an acute intoxication of zolpidem — the sleep medication better known as Ambien — per ABC San Diego affiliate KGTV.
Merriman’s brother, Terence, read a statement following the guilty verdict, asking people to think fondly of Merriman, who co-founded the education and research nonprofit Butterfly Farms in Encinitas.
“More than one family has lost loved ones in this tragedy. We are deeply saddened at the loss of Thomas John Merriman. He was taken too soon from Earth and us,” said the brother. “Tom was a great father, son, brother, and friend. We want him to be remembered for his compassionate, kind, generous, caring, and selfless nature. We will do our best to remember him for his genius talent to grow and nurture living things.”
Janks, who had remained close with her former stepfather after his divorce, had gone to Merriman's residence to clean while he was recovering at a nearby medical facility from injuries sustained in a fall, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. While in Merriman’s home office around Christmas, Janks bumped into the computer's mouse, revealing the screensaver contained an image of women’s breasts.
Janks said she recognized the breasts as hers because of an identifiable beauty mark.
She soon found hundreds of nude photos organized by her body parts, including images dating back to when Janks was just 16 years old. Janks believed Merriman stole at least some the photos from her missing camera and other electronic devices.
Many of the photographs were taken without her consent, including some of Janks in the shower.
“It was the most violating, awful, gut-wrenching feeling ever,” Janks testified. “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.”
Merriman had married the defendant's mother in 1995, when Janks was 11 years old, according to the San Diego Reader. They divorced in 2002.
Following the shocking discovery, prosecutors say Janks devised a plan to murder Merriman and stage it to look like an accidental overdose, then enlisted the help of a “fixer,” according to KGTV. Janks, however, claimed she only sought the fixer's help because she wanted protection when confronting Merriman about the illicit photos.
On Dec. 31, Janks picked her former stepfather up from the medical facility. She texted the “fixer” hours later.
“I just dosed the hell out of him,” Janks texted.
Ultimately, the “fixer” declined to go to Janks' place but sent another man on his behalf, according to KGTV.
Janks allegedly told the new man that she “wanted to strangle” Merriman and “bring him into the house,” stated San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo.
The second man also declined to help Janks, prompting her to call a third person, who later contacted authorities.
Other suspicious texts soon followed, according to the Union-Tribune.
“He's waking up. I really don’t want to be the one to do this,” Janks allegedly wrote.
Another text read, “I can’t carry him alone, and I can’t keep a kicking body in my trunk.”
Janks also allegedly threatened, “I am about to club him on the head as he is waking up.”
Del Portillo claimed that, after Janks drugged Merriman, she manually strangled him and placed a plastic bag over his head.
Janks’s defense argued that Merriman died from "his own cocktail” of prescription pills and painted him as an alcoholic, according to the Union-Tribune.
Janks testified Merriman drank whisky on the ride home from the rehab facility, fell twice trying to get back into his home and became immobile. She claimed that a friend helped her put Merriman in her car and she drove him back to the rehabilitation facility, which allegedly refused them entry due to the pandemic. After that, when she couldn’t find someone to help move the intoxicated man out of her SUV, she decided to let him sleep it off in it.
Janks said she returned to the car on Jan. 1, 2021, and found Merriman cold to the touch and promptly panicked. She claimed she tried to put his body in a wheelchair and wheel him into the house, but that he fell on the driveway. She then tried to conceal the body with empty boxes and other articles of trash.
Merriman’s body was discovered the next day.
Janks is scheduled for sentencing on April 3 and faces 25 years to life behind bars.