A California interior designer was found guilty of first-degree murder on Wednesday after prosecutors said she killed her butterfly protection stepfather when she found nude photos on her computer.
As the San Diego County jury read its verdict against Jade Sasha Janks, the 39-year-old Solana Beach resident’s eyes widened and looked stunned as she turned to her defense attorney.
Released on bail, Janks was promptly detained and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the murder of 64-year-old Thomas Merriman, co-founder of Butterfly Farms in Encinitas.
Assistant District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo thanked the jurors for their decision.
“They’ve been excellent, patient, courteous and attentive throughout this entire trial, and we’re happy to have some justice done for Tom and his family,” the prosecutor told reporters outside the courtroom in Vista.
Merriman was killed on December 31, 2020, shortly after Janks found the dangerous photos on Merriman’s computer.
Prosecutors said Janks drugged Merriman and then killed him by suffocating him with a plastic bag. A text message Janks sent to an acquaintance on the day of Merriman’s death, shown to jurors, read: “I just dosed him.”
Janks’ defense insisted that Merriman was in poor health and died from his own chronic drug use. Merriman’s official cause of death was listed as an overdose of prescription sleeping pills.
Defense attorney Marc Carlos said he was considering all avenues for appeals. He acknowledged that the text messages Janks sent were crucial in the jury’s decision to convict his client.
Jurors also dismissed lesser charges such as manslaughter and manslaughter, which could allow a judge to consider extenuating circumstances when sentencing.
In his current form, Janks faces a mandatory 25-to-life sentence as he appears in court on April 3.
“The reason Jade went to court was because she believed she wasn’t guilty of this thing, and that was her position throughout the entire case,” Carlos told NBC News on Thursday.
Carlos said he understood his client’s confused reaction to the guilty verdict.
“It’s a surreal situation to be in,” the defense attorney said. “When the jury comes in and gives the note to the judge, the judge reads the note and the note goes to the clerk and the clerk starts reading, like an eternity. So there’s a lot of psychological stress.”