Interior designer Jade Janks was found guilty Wednesday of drugging and strangling her former stepdad to death after finding naked pictures of herself on his computer.
Janks, 39, was convicted of first-degree murder of Thomas Merriman after the Vista, Calif. jury deliberated for less than one day.
She maintained her innocence throughout the trial, insisting she did not kill Merriman, 64, on December 31, 2020 — and instead claiming he died of an illness.
Janks did admit she was horrified to find more than 100 nude pictures of herself on his computer, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“This was no accident,” Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo told jurors in the North County Superior Court. “This was murder by design.”
The photos had been taken by Janks consensually with her then-boyfriend more than a decade ago, according to local reports. It was unclear how Merriman, a local butterfly activist, gained access to the private pictures. One of the nude photos was apparently his screensaver.
Prosecutors told the jury that Janks, of Solana Beach, discovered the pictures while cleaning Merriman’s apartment after he had been hospitalized. Her mother was no longer married to him, but the two were still close.
The lawyers also presented text messages to the jury that Janks wrote saying she “dosed the hell out of him” after picking him up from the hospital.
“I am about to club him on the head as he is waking up,” she texted as he woke up. She confessed she killed him to two separate people, they said.
Janks’ lawyer Marc Carlos spoke to the media after verdict, insisting there was “zero” evidence she strangled him.
Merriman’s cause of death was determined to be acute intoxication of zolpidem, also known as the sleep aid Ambien. He was found dead under a pile of cardboard boxes in his driveway on Jan. 2. 2021.
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.”
Janks now faces life in prison for the murder.