A woman accused of murdering her stepfather took the stand during her trial to reveal the moment she discovered her nude photos on the man’s computer. Jade Janks pleaded not guilty to killing 64-year-old Thomas Merriman, whose body was found under a pile of trash in Janks’ driveway in January 2021. A toxicology test revealed that Merriman had high levels of the sleep medication Ambien in his system.
- Police believe Jade Janks is a murderer. They say she fed Merriman the tablets before suffocating and strangling him. Her motivation? Finding her nude photos on her stepfather’s computer. “This was no accident. This was murder by design,” Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo told the court.
- Janks has always insisted she’s innocent. She claims that Merriman died by his own hand, as he had drug abuse issues and was in bad health anyway. Her defense attorney, Marc Carlos, told the court: “The medical examiner will not tell you it was strangulation. The science does not support strangulation … Jade Janks loved her stepfather. Tom Merriman loved Jade Janks. Unfortunately, Tom Merriman was a troubled individual, and he loved her in different ways.”
- She was horrified to discover her intimate photos on Merriman’s computer. While on the stand on December 16, Jade Janks recalled the horrifying moment she discovered the pictures. “When I went to clean in his office area, I’m wiping things down, I bumped the mouse, and it shook the screen awake,” the 39-year-old interior designer said. “There’s a picture of female breasts on the screen. I have a beauty mark on my chest, those are my breasts.” In total, she claims there were more than 100 nude photos of her on the phone, all divided into folders based on which body part they depicted.
- Many of the photos were of Janks when she was underage. Janks told the court that some of the photos date back to when she was only 16 and were taken from her personal laptop. She still doesn’t know how he ever got a hold of them. “It was the most violating, awful, gut-wrenching feeling ever. I felt sick, I felt I couldn’t even touch my own skin,” she said. “I don’t know if there’s words, not even in a movie have I seen something so sick.”
- So, what does she say happened to Merriman. According to Janks, she picked her stepfather up from a healthcare facility, after which he took prescription pills and fell unconscious, per The San Diego Union-Tribune. She said she left him in the car but found him still lying there unconscious the following morning. She began to panic and tried to hide the body as a result. “[I] didn’t really know what to do,” she said. “I didn’t want to be blamed for killing him.” However, the prosecution showed texts she sent to friends, one of which read: “I just dosed the hell out of him. Stopping for whiskey then at Dixieland to stall. LMK.”
Jade Janks faces life in prison if convicted of Merriman’s murder.