Daughter Accused of Killing Butterfly Farmer Stepdad for Having Nude Images of Her

If convicted, California interior designer Jade Janks, faces life in prison

A California woman accused of killing her former stepdad after finding nude photos of herself on his computer has pleaded not guilty to his slaying.

Jade Janks, 39, is suspected of murdering 64-year-old Thomas Merriman, co-founder of Butterfly Farms, an Encinitas, Calif., research and education non-profit dedicated to the conservation of butterflies, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

According to the outlet, the trial for Janks, a Solana Beach, Calif., interior designer, began Wednesday.

During opening statements, prosecutors argued Janks drugged, strangled, and suffocated Merriman with a plastic bag on New Year's Eve 2020, after she stumbled upon her racy photos on his computer, while cleaning his bedroom following his hospitalization for a fall, The Coast News reports.

The discovery left her "disturbed to the core" and prompted her to orchestrate his murder, prosecutors said, according to the paper.

Although Janks' mother was no longer married to Merriman, Janks remained close with him, The Coast News reports.

Jade Janks
Jade Janks. Jade Janks Interiors Facebook

Janks allegedly confessed to two people after Merriman's slaying, including a "fixer," who she turned to for assistance, but they never went to the crime scene, prosecutors said.

"I just dosed the hell out of him," she allegedly admitted to the fixer, KGTV-TV reported.

A second person Janks allegedly confided in called 911 to report the alleged murder.

Authorities discovered the body of Merriman is his driveway under a pile of trash on Jan. 1, 2021, according to The Coast News.

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The defense argued Merriman's death was his own doing, suggesting it was a fatal dose of prescription pills, that killed him. Citing the medical examiner, they said he died due to acute intoxication by Ambien, the outlet reports.

"Jade Janks loved her stepfather," her defense attorney Marc Carlos, who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment, said, according to KGTV. "Tom Merriman loved Jade Janks. Unfortunately, Tom Merriman was a troubled individual, and he loved her in different ways."

Janks' trial is currently underway.

If convicted, she faces life in prison.

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