An interior designer has been found guilty of murdering her former stepdad after she found he had naked pictures of her on his computer.
Jade Janks, 39, drugged and strangled Thomas Merriman, 64, on December 31, 2020.
Throughout the trial, Janks insisted that she did not kill Merriman, instead saying he died of an illness. However, it took the California jury less than a day to convict her of first-degree murder on Wednesday (December 21).
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Merriman was a butterfly activist and co-founder of the education and research nonprofit Butterfly Farms.
The court heard how Janks was tidying Merriman's apartment in late December 2020, while he was in hospital, when she bumped his computer. The screen turned on, revealing a nude photo of her as his screensaver.
She then searched the computer and found over 100 similar images.
According to local reports, the images had been taken more than a decade ago by Janks, consensually and with her then-boyfriend. It remains unclear how Merriman got access to them.
Merriman's dead body was found under cardboard boxes in his driveway on January 2, 2021.
In texts shown to the court, Janks spoke of how she "dosed the hell out of him" after picking him up from hospital.
Another text read: "I am about to club him on the head as he is waking up."
Prosecutors said Janks confessed to killing Merriman to two different people.
Merriman’s cause of death was determined to be acute intoxication of zolpidem, also known as Ambien.
Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo insisted that his death was "no accident", adding: "This was murder by design."
However, Janks attorney Marc Carlos took to social media after the verdict to say there was "zero" evidence she strangled him.
He also told jurors during the trial: "The medical examiner will not tell you it was strangulation. The science does not support strangulation."
Janks now faces life in prison.
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