Woman Accused Of Killing Stepfather Over Nude Photos Found Guilty Of First-Degree Murder

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The interior designer accused of drugging and killing her former stepdad after finding nude photos of herself on his computer has been found guilty.

On Wednesday (December 21), Jade Janks was convicted of the first-degree murder of Thomas Merriman after the Vista, California jury deliberated for less than a day.

According to the New York Post, throughout the trial, the 39-year-old woman maintained her innocence, insisting that she did not strangle her 64-year-old stepfather to death on December 31, 2020.

Janks claimed in court that he died of an illness but also confessed that she was mortified when she discovered more than 100 naked pictures of herself on his computer, per The San Diego Union-Tribune.

"This was no accident," Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo told jurors in the North County Superior Court. "This was murder by design."

The naked pictures in question were taken more than a decade ago by Janks, who she consensually shared with her then-boyfriend. Some of the photos were also from when she was as young as 16, it has been reported.

However, it was unclear how Merriman - who divorced Janks' mother in 2008 after 13 years - came to possess the private pictures. According to CBS8, one of the photos was apparently his screensaver.

Janks told most of her friends that Merriman - a local butterfly activist - had passed away from cancer, but in text messages to others confessed to murdering him with an overdose of pills.

Prosecutors informed the jury that Janks found the pictures when she went to her former step-father's office to clean it after he had been hospitalized.

The lawyers also revealed the messages she sent where she wrote that 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," Janks added when he woke up, per the New York Post.

Janks took the stand after the text messages were revealed and said that they were taken out of context - while her attorney explained they were "all subject to interpretation".

However, she admitted that she planned to confront Merriman over the photos and said that she poured an alcoholic drink over the computer and took the hard drive out.

In court, Janks denied hiring anyone to murder her stepfather, wanting him dead, giving him substances, or strangling him herself.

She also admitted under oath that she covered up his death - hiding him under a pile of trash in the driveway - because she knew she was his last known acquaintance, saying: "I didn't want to get blamed for killing him," as reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

After the guilty verdict ruling, Janks' lawyer Marc Carlos spoke to the media and still pressed that there was "zero" evidence to verify that she had strangled her ex-step-father.

The Daily Mail reported that Merriman's cause of death was determined to be acute intoxication of zolpidem - also known as the sleep aid Ambien. His lifeless body was found under a pile of cardboard boxes in his driveway on January 2, 2021.

During the trial, Janks' legal team made sure to condemn Merriman - who struggled with alcohol abuse and addictions - for his behavior towards his step-daughter.

"Jade Janks loved her stepfather," he said, per the outlet. "Tom Merriman loved Jade Janks. Unfortunately, Tom Merriman was a troubled individual, and he loved her in different ways."

Janks now faces a 25 years-to-life sentence, with a hearing set for April 3.

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