Watch CBS News

Jade Janks left a trail of clues in the murder of Tom Merriman. A look at the evidence.

Jade Janks and the Secret Photos
Jade Janks and the Secret Photos 42:01

Jade Janks, 39, and Tom Merriman, 64, were stepdaughter and stepfather living in Solana Beach, California. Janks worked as an interior designer and Merriman was the CEO of a nonprofit called Butterfly Farms. Prosecutors say in December 2020, Janks found explicit photos of herself on Merriman's computer. Soon after, he's found dead and Janks is arrested for Merriman's murder. Was it revenge?

1995: Jade Janks becomes Tom Merriman's stepdaughter

Jade Janks and Tom Merriman
Jade Janks and Tom Merriman Facebook

Janks and Merriman met when Jade was 14 and Tom married Jade's mother. They stayed close even after that marriage ended. Merrriman called Janks his daughter and she called him her dad.

April 2020: Janks and Merriman become neighbors

Jade Janks
Jade Janks Instagram

In April 2020, Janks and Merriman became next door neighbors on a quiet street less than a mile from the ocean in Solana Beach. Janks would later tell a jury about her relationship with Merriman: "It's hard to come by somebody you just feel that you can trust completely. And I did feel that way."    

Merriman's neighbors, the Hamiltons

Tom Merriman's neighbors
"48 Hours" correspondent Tracy Smith talks to George and Ramona Hamilton in the driveway they shared with Tom Merriman. CBS News

As the COVID lockdown continued, Janks said she and Merriman saw a lot of each other. Merriman's neighbors, George and Ramona Hamilton, spoke to CBS News correspondent Tracy Smith in 2023. Ramona Hamilton said Merriman and Janks were close and said Merriman told her Janks cooked him dinner every night.

Dec. 15, 2020: Merriman is admitted to the hospital

Tom Merriman
Tom Merriman, co-founder of Butterfly Farms in Encinitas, California. San Diego Union Tribune Zuma Press

On Dec. 15, 2020,  Merriman had a bad fall at home. He was brought to Scripps Hospital in Encinitas, California, to get his injuries checked and be treated for alcohol withdrawal. Merriman had suffered from heart and liver problems and had a pacemaker.

Dec. 23, 2020: Janks finds explicit photos

Tom Merriman's computer
Tom Merriman's computer San Diego Superior Court North County Division

While Merriman was in the hospital, Janks says she was cleaning his apartment when she discovered that Merriman had nude photos of her saved on his computer. Janks looked further and found there were hundreds of photos, some in folders with explicit titles. She said, "It was the most violating, just awful, gut-wrenching feeling ever. I felt sick. I felt like, I couldn't even touch my own skin."  

Dec. 23, 2020: Janks goes on Facebook for help

Alan Roach
Alan Roach Facebook

The day Janks found those photos she was introduced to Alan Roach through a mutual friend on Facebook. Roach worked in private security, and Janks later told a jury she wanted to find "somebody to look out for [her] and make sure that [she] was safe." In one of his Facebook messages to Janks, Roach said, "If you have a problem, I can fix it for you."

Alan Roach was not charged with any crime in connection to this case.   

Jan. 1, 2021: A curious phone call to police

Adam Siplyak
Adam Siplyak Facebook

On the morning of Jan. 1, 2021, the San Diego Sheriff's Department got a phone call from a man named Adam Siplyak. Siplyak  identified himself as a friend of Janks' and told police "she might have possibly killed her stepdad."

Jan. 1, 2021: Where's Tom Merriman?

Tom Merriman
Tom Merriman Facebook

Following that phone call, police arrived at Merriman's house in the afternoon to look for him but had no success. They also called friends and family members, but no one had heard from Merriman.    

Jan. 1, 2021: Janks talks to police

Jade Janks questioning
Jade Janks was wrapped in a blanket while being interviewed at the San Diego County Sheriff's Department because she said she was cold.  San Diego Superior Court North County Division

While investigators were at Merriman's home looking for him, they saw Janks heading out of the driveway in her SUV. Detectives brought Janks into the station to answer questions. Janks said she didn't know where Merriman went and invoked her right to an attorney.

Jan. 2, 2021 | Approximately 7 a.m.: Merriman is found

Janks trashpile
The pile of trash that investigators found in Tom Merriman's driveway when they came to investigate the phone call that he may have been killed. San Diego Superior Court North County Division

With no sign of Merriman and no information from Janks about his whereabouts, police got a search warrant and spent the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 2021, combing Merriman and Janks' homes for clues. Later that morning, Detective Rosa Patron took a closer look at this pile of garbage in Merriman's driveway and realized his body was lying underneath it, wrapped in a blanket with trash stacked on top of him.

Jan. 2, 2021 7:15 a.m.: Jade Janks is arrested

Jade Janks mug shot
On Jan. 2, 2021, Jade Janks was arrested and charged with Tom Merriman's murder. San Diego Superior Court North County Division

As soon as investigators found Merriman's body, they placed Janks under arrest for his murder. 

Jan. 3, 2021:  Autopsy reveals prescription drugs in Merriman's blood

Merriman prescription
Tom Merriman's Zolpidem prescription San Diego Superior Court North County Division

At his autopsy, the medical examiner found Merriman had high levels of the prescription sleeping medication Zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien, in his system, along with several other prescription medications. 

Clues in Janks' car

Jade Janks' 4Runner SUV
Jade Janks' 4Runner SUV San Diego Superior Court North County Division

Investigators found numerous clues inside Janks' vehicle, including items she purchased at the store for what prosecutors would later call a "murder kit." 

Janks goes shopping

Jade Janks surveillance at CVS
Surveillance video shows Jade Janks  entering a CVS Pharmacy store on Dec. 31, 2020. San Diego Superior Court North County Division

After Janks picked Merriman up on Dec. 31, 2020, she stopped at a shopping plaza near where she and Merriman lived. Janks went into CVS, a liquor store, and then a hardware store, where she purchased gloves, towels, and a nylon cord.


A "murder kit"?

Merriman murder evidence
Jade Janks, an interior decorator, told investigators this red rope and other materials were purchased for a painting project.  San Diego Superior Court North County Division

Prosecutors would later refer to the items Janks purchased after picking Merriman up as a "murder kit," including this red nylon rope. 

Gloves to hide evidence of a crime?

Merriman murder evidence
The black disposable nylon glove that was found on the floor behind the driver's seat in Jade Janks' SUV. San Diego Superior Court North County Division

Janks also purchased gloves at the store that same day. Prosecutors believe Janks strangled Merriman inside her car in the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2020. 

A makeshift gag?

Janks murder trial evidence
In court, Deputy DA Jorge Del Portillo holds up towels that were found in Jade Janks' SUV.    CBS News

Prosecutor Jorge Del Portillo showed a jury how the towels Janks purchased on Dec. 31, 2020, could have been used to gag Merriman.

Janks' phone a "gold mine" say prosecutors

Jade Janks text to Alan Roach
Jade Janks sent this text to Alan Roach saying she "dosed" Tom Merriman.  San Diego Superior Court North County Division

When detectives unlocked Janks' phone, they found a wealth of evidence including numerous text messages which prosecutors Jorge Del Portillo and Teresa Pham called "a gold mine" of incriminating evidence against Janks. 

Janks sent to a text to Alan Roach soon after she picked Merriman up from the rehab center on Dec. 31, 2020 saying, "I just dosed the hell out of him."

Dec. 7, 2022: The people v. Jade Janks

Janks prosecutors
Prosecutors Teresa Pham and Jorge Del Portillo CBS News

Almost two years after Tom Merriman's death, prosecutors Jorge Del Portillo and Teresa Pham made the case against Jade Janks for Merriman's murder.

Dec. 21, 2022: "Guilty"

Jade Janks verdict reaction
Jade Janks reacts after hearing the verdict in her trial for the murder of Tom Merriman. CBS News

Janks testified at trial in her own defense, saying she did not kill Merriman. She did admit to covering up his body, saying she had found him lifeless in her vehicle on the morning of Jan. 1, 2021, and panicked, thinking she would be blamed for his death. Here she appears stunned as the jury delivered a guilty verdict in the case.

March 6, 2023: Janks' sentencing

Jade Janks at sentencing
Jade Janks made allegations of "inappropriate touch" and "coercion" at her sentencing.  CBS News

At her sentencing, Janks told the court that Merriman's influence "manifested itself into inappropriate touch, coercion, reckless behavior, and complete violation of what I now realize was years of psychological manipulation." She says it all came crashing down when she discovered those nude photos of herself on Merriman's computer. 

Janks did not tell this story during the trial, and "48 Hours" cannot verify if it is true. Despite her statement, the judge sentenced Janks to serve 25 years to life in prison for Merriman's murder. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.