The verdict was read Wednesday in court, with the jury finding Janks, 39, guilty of the first-degree murder of Tom Merriman, 64 on New Year’s Eve 2020. The verdict came after about a day of deliberation.
Wide-eyed, she appeared to look at her attorney in shock after the verdict was read (video below). She faces a 25 years-to-life sentence, with a hearing set for April 3.
Merriman’s official cause of death was deemed an overdose from sleeping pills.
Prosecutors argued, successfully, that the interior designer began plotting her stepfather’s murder after she knocked into his computer and discovered nude photos of herself on it while cleaning his apartment when he was in the hospital.
The DA claimed she picked him up from the hospital, plied him with sleeping pills and then suffocated him in her SUV — pointing to text messages she sent to friends reading, “I just dosed the hell out of him” and “I am about to club him on the head as he is waking up.” A witness also claimed she said of Merriman, “I killed him” — and told him, “I suffocated him with a bag and I choked him.”
Taking the stand, Janks said the text messages were taken out of context, while her attorney said they were “all subject to interpretation.” She did, however, say she planned to confront Merriman over the photos. Her lawyer also argued during closing statements that there was no evidence of strangulation.
“So, they want you to believe that this woman, Jade Janks, stood over her stepfather, grabbed him by the throat and strangled him, lightly, without leaving marks,” he said, per CBS8.
On the witness stand in her defense, Janks described how she discovered the photos on the computer.
“When I went to clean in his office area, I’m wiping things down, I bumped the mouse, and it shook the screen awake. There’s a picture of female breasts on the screen. I have a beauty mark on my chest, those are my breasts,” she said in court last Friday, according to CBS8.
She said there were more than 100 photos of herself, claiming he cropped the photos and divided them into photos by body part. She also claimed some of the photos were taken when she was as young as 16 and were from her laptop and a digital camera she didn’t think he had access to. She also said she poured Jack Daniels over the computer and took out the hard drive.
Throughout her testimony while questioned by her defense attorney, Janks claimed Merriman had just passed out after taking prescription pills and drinking whiskey after she picked him up from the hospital. She said that after no one she contacted helped her move him, she left him in the car to sleep it off overnight — and when she went out to her car the next morning, she saw from afar he hadn’t moved at all and panicked.
She later admitted under oath that she covered up his death — hiding him under a pile of trash in the driveway — and said she “panicked” and “didn’t really know what to do” because she knew she was the victim’s last known acquaintance and because of what she had done to his computer. “I didn’t want to get blamed for killing him,” she said, per the San Diego Tribune.
Janks denied hiring anyone to kill her stepfather, wanting him dead, giving him drugs or strangling him herself. “No, I would never, no! I wouldn’t do that to anybody,” she told the jury.