Jade Janks has rejected accusations of murdering her father after she discovered he had come into possession of her nudes. Thomas Merriman was found dead under a pile of rubbish in the home he shared with his stepdaughter last year. The trial against 39-year-old Ms Janks began last week at Vista Superior Court, with the designer and butterfly activist pleading not guilty to killing her stepfather.
The prosecution claims Mr Merriman died of an overdose of sleeping pills Ms Janks handed him after discovering he was using some of the nude photos as his screensaver.
San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo said: “This was no accident. This was murder by design.”
Local authorities said Ms Janks consensually shared the pictures with a former boyfriend over 10 years ago and it is unclear how Mr Merriman gained access to the snaps.
Mr Del Portillo claimed the discovery of the photographs in Mr Merriman’s private space had left Ms Janks “distraught” and “disturbed to the core”.
JUST IN: Democrats win ‘roller coaster’ Massachusetts seat by one single vote after recount
He cited text evidence to support the murder allegations, saying Ms Janks appeared to confirm she had “dosed” her stepfather after collecting him from the hospital after a brief stay.
One of the texts the defendant allegedly wrote read: “I just dosed the hell out of him. Stopping for whiskey then at Dixieland to stall. LMK”
Another alleged message read: “He’s waking up. I really don’t want to be the one to do this.”
The prosecuting team claims Ms Janks ultimately called friend Adam Siplyak to help her dispose of the body but he alerted the police about Mr Merriman’s death after refusing.
READ MORE: Trump-backed Kari Lake files lawsuit to ‘be named the winner’ of Arizona’s midterm race
Lisa Brannan, a detective involved in the case, told the court “Ms Janks told Mr Siplyak that she killed her stepfather and she said, ‘I suffocated him with a bag and I choked him.’ She also said that she gave him a bunch of drugs.”
Mr Siplyak refused to help, telling Ms Janks: “I have a son to raise.’
He continued: “The medical examiner will not tell you it was strangulation. The science does not support strangulation.”
Ms Janks remained close to her stepfather despite her mother divorcing him in 2008 after multiple instances of domestic abuse.
Her lawyer branded the victim as a “troubled individual” but remarked his client “loved” him.
Mr Carlos added: “Jade Janks loved her stepfather. Tom Merriman loved Jade Janks.
“Unfortunately, Tom Merriman was a troubled individual, and he loved her in different ways.”
If convicted, Ms Janks faces the prospect of life in prison.