A woman is accused of drugging and strangling her former stepfather after finding naked photos of herself on his computer in Solana Beach, California.
One of the images the man reportedly used as a screensaver, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Wednesday.
Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo said finding those photos disturbed interior designer Jade Sasha Janks, who has pleaded not guilty, adding, “This was no accident. This was murder by design.”
However, the woman’s attorney claimed Thomas Merriman passed away due to poor health and a mixture of pills he made.
Attorney Marc Carlos argued the science did not support the act of strangulation.
California interior designer Jade Janks killed stepdad for keeping nude photos of her: prosecutors https://t.co/t4rfOIVx2A pic.twitter.com/wKNBbuJyll
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The newspaper noted that Merriman was the cofounder of a nonprofit organization located in Encinitas known as Butterfly Farms.
“I didn’t realize it until today that I spend more time with him than I do my kids,” Pat Flanagan of Butterfly Farms said following Merriman’s death in 2021, adding he was shocked at the news.
The man’s body was found January 2, 2021, laying beneath a pile of trash near his residence.
“The prosecutor said the cause of death was acute intoxication from sleeping pills. But, he said, Janks told people she had drugged and tried to suffocate him,” the Union-Tribune report stated.
Not long before his death, Janks picked him up from a rehab facility where he had been recovering from a fall.
Murder trial opens for Solana Beach woman accused of killing former stepfather https://t.co/hqUJuoFIWY pic.twitter.com/ETYVJ90n63
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“According to the attorneys, Janks was tidying up Merriman’s apartment in late December 2020 when she bumped his computer, waking it and then seeing her nude photo as the screensaver. She searched the computer and found several more images,” the newspaper said.
It was unclear how the photos possibly came into Merriman’s possession, but Janks apparently took them consensually with her boyfriend years before.
Del Portillo argued she allegedly plotted his death and wanted to make it look like an overdose. She also reportedly sent texts to others trying to find help.
In 2021, Flanagan said of Merriman and the farm, “Tom was passionate, as am I, and it’s hard to walk away from something that is doing good and you’re passionate about.”