Jade Janks & Tom Merriman

As the long dark night at last gave way to the morning light, Detective Rosa Patron made the terrible discovery. Buried beneath a pile of cardboard boxes and discarded trash, in his own driveway, was the still body of Tom Merriman. It was 7:00 a.m. on January 2, 2021. The search which had begun almost 24 hours before was now over. Tom was lying on his right side, covered with a blanket, still clad in pajamas from his recent hospital stay. Tom Merriman was only 64 years old and co-founder of the beautiful Butterfly Farms in Encinitas, California. What could have led to this moment? Who could have done this? And why?

According to the prosecution, it was his stepdaughter, Jade Janks, now 39, who plotted his death after finding nude photographs of herself on Tom’s computer. She dosed him with his own medications, put a plastic bag over his head, and then strangled him with her own hands, they stated. She planned to have him found in his bed, designed to look like an overdose. “How do we know she murdered him?” asked Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo in his opening statement to the jury. She confessed to two people, he continued. Addressing Tom Merriman, Del Portillo said, “You are not going to like him. You are not going to like his conduct.” He then asked the jury not to judge Tom Merriman’s character because he was not on trial.

The defense, headed by high-profile attorney Marc Carlos, countered it was Tom Merriman himself who “made his own cocktail” of pills while still having other prescription drugs within his system and fighting ill health. Tom was an alcoholic, abuser of prescription drugs, took narcotics to sleep, and suffered from a long list of medical problems. An enlarged heart, arterial fibrillation, kidney and liver dysfunction, which affected how medication left his system, and other afflictions. Carlos argued the medication was not a fatal dose, so the prosecution had to turn to strangulation. Yet the medical examiner did not find any evidence of strangulation or asphyxiation. The photos showed an “obsession, aberrant to all levels,” yet they did not provide a motive to kill, as Jade Janks loved her stepfather, was the only one who took care of him, and would never have hurt him.

The medical examiner found the case of death to be Acute Zolpidem Intoxication, with the contributing factors of cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) and hepatomegaly (an enlarged liver). Zolpidem is better known as Ambien, a central nervous system depressant used to treat insomnia. As Jade Janks murder trial began in the San Diego courtroom of Judge Robert Kearney, a key question became: How did that Zolpidem get into Tom Merriman’s system?

The prosecution was headed by San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Jorge Del Portillo and Teresa Pham. The defense by Marc Carlos and Michelle Camacho. Would this be a simple case? After all, hadn’t the district attorney said Jade confessed to two people? But were these people speaking the gospel truth or were they merely out to save themselves?

Jade Janks: “We Always Had a Special Bond”

Would Jade Janks take the witness stand in her own defense? Anticipation filled the air, and when Marc Carlos finally called out her name, the very last witness of the trial, the courtroom snapped to attention. Reporters leaned forward in their seats as the Court TV cameras captured her every move. A dark haired and slender beauty, Jade began her testimony, stopping at times to state she was nervous. As I listened, in one respect, I already felt like I knew her. As Jade had been freed on a $1 million bond, she walked about freely during the trial. I saw her in the parking lot, court hallway, and often came face to face with her on court breaks in the ladies restroom. At times, we exchanged polite greetings.

Jade testified she met Tom Merriman when she was 14 years old, when her mother, Jeanette, married Tom. Although Jade lived with her biological father until she was 18, she visited her mother and Tom, and eventually moved  in with them to help care for their young son, Cash. Jade was 18 years old at the time. Jade said her mother had problems with drugs and alcohol and also suffered with mental health issues. Her crazy behavior caused them to leave her and they packed up the house, literally leaving in the middle of the night.  After their sudden departure, the trio developed a special bond. Jade helped raise Cash and they all lived together for almost five years. She considered Tom family and he referred to her as his daughter.

When Jade was 23, she decided it was time for her to move, feeling Tom had become too dependent upon her. She still maintained contact with Tom, but the days of closeness were over. Then one day Tom called her and told her he had moved onto Nardo Street in Solana Beach. In April of 2020, Jade also moved onto Nardo Street, and they became neighbors. Living “literally next door,” said Jade. She lived at 148 South Nardo and he at 144. By this time, Jade had opened her own interior design business, a profession she loved.

Tom had aged a lot, and seemed sad and alone, said Jade. He started coming over weekly for dinner and Jade began to help him in any way she could.  “I always acted as a caretaker,” she said, and Tom gave her power of attorney for medical decisions. “We always had a special bond.” She never got along with anyone or trusted anyone as much as Tom, declared Jade. Tom would text and say to her, “No one will ever love you as much as I do.”

Jade Makes a Sickening Discovery

In mid-December, Jade took a trip to Cabo San Lucas. While on vacation, she received a call from Tom. He was hard to understand and said, “They beat me up. They broke my ribs.” She couldn’t understand what he was talking about, but she finally figured out he had fallen. He sent her a text with a photo of a bloody tissue, bloody towels, and a whiskey bottle. She asked him if she needed to come home and he said, “No.”

But then on December 15, 2020, Tom fell again at his home and Jade called paramedics. He was taken to Scripps Hospital in Encinitas, where he was treated for broken ribs and alcohol and Xanax withdrawal. He was then sent to Aviara Healthcare Center to complete his recovery.

On December 23rd, Jade went to Tom’s house to clean it up in anticipation of his return home. As Marc Carlos began taking Jade through this time, her voice started to shake, and tears began to fall. While she was cleaning, she bumped Tom’s computer mouse and his screensaver popped up. There on the screen were female breasts. She soon realized: Those were her breasts! Jade has a beauty mark, and she could see it clearly on the screen. “I couldn’t believe it. I was in complete shock. There’s no way! There’s no way!” she said through sobs.

She looked further into the computer and found a rolling screen of naked photos of herself. It looked like hundreds. Worse yet, he had cropped them and put them into folders. With this, attorney Carlos walked up to the witness stand and handed Jade the printout of the photos. Jade sobbed as she flipped through the pages.  But more shocking testimony was to follow. The files had names: “JD Shower,” “JD’s Sn—ch.” When Carlos asked what photo had been cropped, sobbing into a Kleenex, Jade responded, “My vagina.” The betrayal was complete and sickening. “He called me his daughter,” Jade continued as she sobbed even harder.

Carlos then instructed, “Tell this jury how you felt.” With tears in every word, Jade said, “The most violating, gut wrenching feeling ever. I felt sick. I couldn’t even touch my own skin…Not even in a movie have I seen something so sick.” She went on, “I hated him…I wanted him to leave me alone.”

Attorney Carlos then handed the printout of the photos to the jury. Each juror held the printout, some looking long, while others glanced at it for the briefest of seconds as if it was too disturbing to touch before passing it on.

Carlos asked Jade if she had ever given her stepfather naked photos. “NO!” she stated with force. “Did you have an idea where the photos came from?” he then asked. Jade said the photos were from a span of years, from age 16 or 17 up to 25 or 26. She said one photo was of her in the shower where she was smiling. A boyfriend had taken it. Tom had access to her laptop, and she had lost a digital camera and SD card. Now it looked to her like Tom had taken the camera and card. Again, Carlos asked if she had given any photos to him. “No, he was my dad!” exclaimed Jade.

Carlos asked why she didn’t go to the police. She said she didn’t know what that would do, what they would do to him, or what Tom would do to her since they were living next door.

She called her friend Mike who told her to erase the photos, which she did not do, as she started freaking out what would happen if Tom came home and found out she erased the photos. She now feared him even though he was still at the rehab hospital. She told her friend Sarah, and they discussed options, such as telling the landlord or calling the police.

Jade Janks didn’t know what to do but she was scared. In the days that followed, she couldn’t touch herself or even shower. “I was scared of being nude and vulnerable,” she explained through tears. She began to sleep on the floor on a blue tarp that would make noise should it be stepped upon. She placed a knife nearby. So sickened, she vomited several times.

Not only was Jade emotional on the stand, but on her first court break, I saw her father hugging her tightly in the court hallway as she cried in his arms. Her father was a steadfast support for her throughout the entire trial.

The Prosecution: Jade Janks Reached Out to “The Fixer”

After seeing the photos, Jade didn’t know what to do. Then she remembered her friend, Sam, had told her about a guy he had gone to high school with. His name was Alan Roach, and he did private security. Sam told her if she ever needed help, Alan Roach could help her. So, on December 23rd, the same day she found the photos, Jade looked up Alan Roach on Facebook. At 10:40 a.m. she contacted him via Facebook messenger: “Alan, Sam’s friend?” she wrote. He responded, “Is there something I can do for you?” Their messages continued:

10:55 a.m. “Not sure. Maybe meet for lunch. Chat in person.”

10:58 a.m. “Awkward situation. Not sure how to handle.”

11:06  a.m. “Sam said if I ever needed help to contact you.”

11:08 a.m. “If Sam referred I am sure I can fix it for you.”

What Was Jade Planning with Alan Roach?

On December 24th, Jade had Alan Roach stand guard outside her bathroom so she could shower. He also advised her as she bought security cameras for her house. But soon she decided she needed a plan. On December 26th she texted, “hopefully we can figure out a plan cuz I imagine you’re too busy to watch me shower every day.” On December 28th, she sent a text stating she was waiting for the hospital and “It’s time to come up with a plan.” Then on December 30th, she wrote, “I think it’s time to tighten up a plan.”

According to Jade, the plan was for her to pick up Tom from the rehab hospital, have Alan Roach meet them at Tom’s home where Jade would confront Tom about the photos, demand he permanently delete them from his computer, and instruct him to move away.

But according to the prosecution, the plan was much darker. And final. It was a plan for cold, hard murder. And that is why she reached out to Alan Roach, whom the prosecution gave the ominous name, “The Fixer.”

Lead homicide detective Matthew Gibson testified there were 71 pages of text messages between Jade Janks, Alan Roach, and others from December 30th to December 31st. An endless number of texts, all downloaded from Jade’s cell phone and others. As the prosecution went through text after text after text,  it was impossible to write them all down, but key messages were addressed. In addition to the text messages, there were multiple calls and Jade made Apple notes, designed to keep her story straight, the prosecution stated.

The Prosecution: Jade Janks Decided on Murder

On December 30th Jade decided on murder, pronounced prosecutor Del Portillo. At 12:40 p.m. Jade sent a text to her friend, Mike Liebhand, writing, “I still struggle with moral issues. Yet I will never not be looking over my shoulder so I made the call.” When he inquired further, she wrote, “It means everything you think it means.” By nightfall she was texting with Alan Roach.

5:27 p.m. “My mind is spinning.”

6:46 p.m. “I’ve got a plan.”

6:46 p.m. Alan Roach responded, “I need to have a clear mind now that time is near.”

7:08 p.m. He wrote, “There is no room for era.”

7:13 p.m. Jade wrote, “I’ve given this some thought. I have an easy solution.”

At 10: 52 a.m. the next morning, Jade destroyed the photos on Tom’s computer. First, she took pictures of the photos with her cell phone.

The Text: “I just dosed the hell out of him.”

At 11:19 a.m. on December 31st, Tom Merriman was discharged from Aviara Healthcare and Jade was there to pick him up. Tom was released with a huge bag of medication, including Zolpidem, Oxycodone, and Trazadone. Eleven minutes after Tom was discharged, at 11:30 a.m., Jade sent Alan Roach a text: “I just dosed the hell out of him. Stopping for whiskey, then stopping at Dixieline to stall. Lmk.”

Was this the smoking gun in the case? The prosecution believed it was. But on the witness stand, Jade had another explanation as she detailed what happened on that fateful day. But first let’s look at the other text messages and events of December 31st.

December 31, 2020: Was It A Timeline of Murder or Something Else?

After sending the text, “I just dosed the hell out of him,” Jade went into BevMo and purchased a large bottle of Jack Daniels, a mini bottle of Kettle One Vodka,  Bushmills Irish Whiskey, and mini chocolates. She then went to CVS and Dixieline. At Dixieline she purchased terry cloth towels, zip ties, two types of gloves, and spray paint. She left Dixieline at 12:27 p.m.

Not hearing back from Alan Roach, Jade drove to her house where she tried to get Tom out of her car, but he fell into the driveway. A flurry of text messages began.

12:39 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach, “I can’t carry him either back to my car or to his house. I’m not strong enough. Can you come like right away?” Not hearing back, she contacted Adam Siplyak.

12:44 p.m. To Adam Siplyak, Jade wrote, “911. Call me.” Adam Siplyak was a man Jade had slept with years before and with whom she had gone to Mexico in November. He could not help as he was getting a tattoo and told her to call Chuckie.

12:46 p.m. Jade called Charles Geary. He could not help as he was in the desert.

12:52 p.m. Jade texted her friend Sarah Jacobs. “He is alive. Please don’t ask me any questions. Just help me get him into the house.”

12:57 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach, “I had to call someone to help me carry him inside. I wish you were closer.”

1:00 p.m. Sarah came over with her boyfriend, Justin. Justin lifted Tom back into Jade’s car. Jade told them she was taking him back to the hospital and they saw her drive away.

1:21 p.m. Jade created Apple notes on her laptop where she began logging her actions.

2:38 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach. “He’s waking up. I really didn’t want to be the one to do this.”

2:39 p.m. Alan Roach responded he could send his partner.

2:44 p.m. Jade responded she did not want to involve a lot of people.

2:48 p.m. Jade texted, “I am super uncomfortable having another person involved.”

2:49 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach, “It’s pretty much done. I don’t need to talk to anyone.”

2:51 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach, “How soon will you get here? It’s going to be Weekend at Bernies.”

2:57 p.m. Alan Roach texted he would send his partner, “Just throw him a bill and I will give him a bill.” He also wrote, “I still have the money you gave me earlier but I won’t be seeing him.”

2:59 p.m. Jade texted, “He is waking up. I am not sure how much longer I can control my temper. “

3:14 p.m. Jade texted, “I asked you for help. I tried to do it on my own. I need your help and I’m waiting on a stranger.”

3:17 p.m. Alan Roach’s partner, Brian Salomon entered CVS, where he was captured on their surveillance cameras. He bought gloves.

Around 3:30 p.m. Brian Salomon arrived at Jade’s home. He asked, “What do you want me to do?” Brian Salomon said Jade told him, “I want you to strangle him, and I’ll take care of the rest.” Brian Salomon responded he had to make a call. He left and ran down the driveway.

3:41 p.m. Alan Roach texted Jade, “I ordered him to leave. I didn’t want him involved like that.”

4:06 p.m. Jade texted Adam Siplyak, “Are you done?” He responded “No,” he was still getting his tattoo.

Jade then began a series of texts to Alan Roach:

4:08 p.m. “Fuck. He is up. I guess I am on my own.”

4:12 p.m. “Btw, he is waking up and getting way more aggressive.”

4:28 p.m. “He is super medicated. I can’t keep a kicking body in my truck. I’m about ready to club him.”

4:30 p.m. “He’s waking up. I’m about ready to club him.”

4:32 p.m. “I asked you for your help. I can’t do it alone.”

4:35 p.m. “He is very aware. And I am on my own.”

5:01 p.m. “Why are you not responding?”

From 3:55 p.m. until 6:03 p.m. Alan Roach was silent. Jade even searched the sheriff’s website to see if Alan Roach was in jail.

6:05 p.m. Alan Roach finally responded. “So sorry. I got family. Shit I’m dealing with.” Jade asked if he could come over.

6:16 p.m. Alan Roach texted, “I have a better idea but it can’t be taken care of tonight. Can’t afford a messy job site.”

7:30 p.m. Adam Siplyak arrived at Jade’s house. She told him about the photos and then he said she told him, “I killed him. I drugged him. Suffocated him with a bag and choked him.” Jade wanted Adam to put Tom in his bed. Adam did not want to be involved and left.

8:12 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach, “Can you let me know if I’m alone?” She followed by writing, “Now I have hours til bruising shows. Need to get inside. This does not end well for me.”

9:24 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach she was going to bed, but “still need to figure out my issue.”

Jade Janks: “I really need to clear the trash in the  driveway”

On January 1st, unknown to Jade, Adam Siplyak called the police at 9:30 a.m. Meanwhile, Jade continued her texting:

9:59 a.m. Jade texted Sarah, “I need a favor.” She asked two more times, but Sarah and Justin don’t help this time. It was New Year’s Day and they just wanted to chill.

3:49 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach, “I just need to get him inside. Plan b does not end well for me.”

4:41 p.m. Tom’s brother, Terrence, sent a text to Tom’s cell phone, which was in Jade’s possession.

4:50 p.m. Jade called Terrence, who told her a detective contacted him looking for Tom. Jade told Terrence Tom was not available as he was sleeping and recovering from alcohol and Xanax rehab.

4:52 p.m. Jade texted Alan Roach she just received a weird call, that Tom’s brother said a guy claiming to be a detective had called him.

Jade continued texting Alan Roach:

5:07 p.m. “I really need to clear the trash in the driveway.”

5:12 p.m. “If anyone knows, the place would be swarming.” Jade followed by saying, “I have a pile of trash I need to get rid of. Can you send someone?”

5:20 p.m. “I really, really need to clear trash in driveway.”

5:33 p.m. Jade sent her last text to Alan Roach, “Lose my number. I am getting pulled over.”

At 9:01 p.m. Jade was interviewed at the North Coastal Station. When asked, “Do you know where Tom is?” she said, “No” and then said, “I think I need to speak with an attorney.”

At 4:30 a.m. Jade was released to her father’s home as Tom Merriman’s body had not been found.

January 2, 2021: Tom Merriman is Found and Jade Janks Is Arrested

Detective Alexander Martinez of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department testified he was sent to do a welfare check on Tom Merriman on January 1st. He arrived around 4:40 p.m. Four detectives searched from 4:30 until 6:00, but they could not find Tom. Detective Martinez left to get a search warrant for Tom’s house, Jade’s house, and vehicle.

The search warrant was authorized at 12:30 a.m. and the search began indoors, but detectives decided to wait until daylight to search outside. At 7:00 a.m. Tom Merriman’s body was found at last, in the driveway buried beneath boxes and trash. He had been there all along. Detectives had walked by Tom time and time again. How could they have possibly missed him?

At 7:15 a.m. Jade Janks was arrested.

Did Jade Janks Confess to Brian Salomon and Ask Him to Strangle Tom?

Twenty-eight-year-old Brian Salomon took the witness stand and on cross-examination was often combative. When asked something with which he did not agree, he simply answered, “Negative.” His denials were vast, but first he answered the friendly questions of the prosecution.

Prosecutor Teresa Pham immediately went to Brian’s domestic violence cases. On May 22, 2022, Brian was arrested in San Bernardino for pushing his ex-girlfriend out of a moving car. Then on June 21, 2022, he was arrested in Oceanside for violation of the restraining order. Attorney Pham made it clear no criminal charges had been filed. On December 5, 2022, on the eve of trial, Brian Salomon was given immunity. Under the immunity agreement his testimony in the Janks trial could not be used against him in his two domestic violence cases, although he could still be charged in those cases.

Brian Salomon testified he met Alan Roach through boxing, and they were sparring partners. On December 31, 2020, he received a call from Alan Roach. At the time he was shopping with Maria Bravo, the mother of his son, and his baby son. He was told to buy gloves, then to go to Jade’s house. He entered CVS at 3:21 p.m., bought gloves, and then Maria Bravo dropped him off at Jade’s house. He had never met her before. She was by the vehicle, and he described her demeanor as “kinda off, not there.”

He testified she asked him to come inside, and he stood by the front entrance, where he could see a handgun on the counter. She said, “So, I drugged him. He’s in the backseat.” At that point Brian was “kinda nervous and a little scared.” When asked by the prosecutor what job he thought he was there to do, he answered he was to help the stepfather get out of the vehicle and into his house. “I thought I was doing a good deed,” he said.

Brian testified he asked Jade, “Do you want me to help bring him into the house?” She answered, “Yes,” and then said she had put a pillowcase over his head. “Do you want me to carry him in? She responded, “I have a rope around him.” He asked, “Do you want me to bring him inside?” Jade said, “No, I want you to strangle him. Bring him inside and I’ll take care of the rest.”

After Brian relayed this chilling testimony, there was a long, long silence followed by Brian’s heavy breathing. Finally regaining his composure, Brian said he told Jade, “Okay. Let me call my partner and I will be right back.”

At that point, he said he called Maria Bravo and told her he needed her now, “like right now.” He ran down the driveway. He was scared. He said he never saw a body as he did not want to look. He testified he told Maria Bravo what had just happened. He also called Alan Roach and said, “I’m out. I’m not doing this.” He never called the police as he was still processing what had happened. And even when he found out about the death via Facebook news, he still did not contact the police.

But on January 7, 2021, the police contacted him. He gave an interview, but never said Jade Janks had asked him to strangle Tom. When questioned why, he said he was scared about self-incriminating himself because he had never been in this situation before and that he had never been in trouble at that point. It wasn’t until September 28, 2022, eighteen months later, when he was meeting with the prosecutors and their investigator that he finally told them this key information.

Was Brian Salomon In The Business of Killing?

Marc Carlos did not mince any words as he began his cross-examination. “Just so we’re clear, is your friend Alan Roach in the business of killing?” “Are you in the business of killing?” Brian answered, “No,” to each, but it was clear Carlos thought otherwise.

Carlos questioned him about not calling the police. Brian answered you have to be in that situation to understand it is not easy to call the police, to which Carlos responded, “It is easy to call the police. You just pick up the phone.”

Carlos then grilled him about his 18-month delay in reporting Jade asked him to strangle Tom. Carlos stated that only when Brian had two cases pending was he then willing to talk. Carlos went through the domestic violence cases in detail. On May 22, 2022, Brian pushed his ex-girlfriend out of a moving vehicle and then on June 21, 2022, he threatened to kill her if she called police. Brian Salomon answered, “Negative” to these facts.

Carlos said Brian was a liar, that he lied to police. Brian said he withheld, not lied. Round and round they went on this. “You lie to police when it suits you,” declared Carlos.  Next Carlos raised Maria Bravo said she did not believe him because “you are a liar,” to which Brian responded she did not believe because the story was too unbelievable.

Carlos raised Brian works private security and was in the police academy. How could he be afraid of Jade Janks or afraid to call the police? “You were never going to call police until they came knocking on your door.” Brian agreed that was true.

Carlos closed his cross-examination by stating Brian had never met Jade Janks before, but within 60 seconds she asked him to strangle Tom, raising the inference, “How believable is that?” Carlos then read from Brian’s January 7, 2021, interview, where he told detectives Jade said, “So bring him in here and I will take care of the rest.” And he told Detective Patron, Jade said, “Just carry him in nicely and I’ll wait here.”

Did Jade Janks Confess to Adam Siplyak?

Adam Siplyak looked tough with his crew cut and tattoos covering both arms and traveling up high onto his neck. He too, would face a grueling cross-examination. But first he answered the questions of the prosecutor.

Adam had slept with Jade in the past, but had not seen her in 10 years as his girlfriend did not like her. But in September of 2020, his girlfriend broke up with him and he contacted Jade. In November, they took a trip together to Mexico but did not have sexual relations. On December 31, 2020, at 12:44 p.m. he received a text message from Jade, “911. Call me.” He called her and she said her stepfather was in the driveway passed out drunk and she needed help. He told her he could not help her as he was getting ready to get a tattoo. He told her to call Chuckie.

At 4:06 p.m. he received another text from Jade, asking him if he was done.  He responded he was still getting his tattoo. Later, she sent him a text asking him if she could trust him. He assured her she could, and she asked him to come over. Around 7:30, he arrived at her place, and she told him about the photos. Then she said, “It’s even gnarlier than that. I killed him. He’s in the back of my 4Runner.” She told him she drugged him, he was in the driveway, but got him back in the car. She drove around with him, but didn’t know what to do. She then put a bag over his head and strangled him. She wanted Adam to move Tom to the bed so it would look like an overdose. He thought, “Fuck, I’m at a murder scene.” He began wiping down items he had touched.

When he asked if there were any marks on Tom, she replied, “Maybe on his hands.” He said, “I’m out of here.” But he stayed and had a cigarette with her. Then Jade Janks kissed him goodbye.

Adam went to his friend’s house, Justin Hoffman, as it was New Year’s Eve. His head was spinning, and he told Justin, “I was at a girl’s house. She had a dead body, and wanted me to move it.” He didn’t tell him more as he didn’t want to pull him into it. Neither of them called police.

Adam went home and laid in bed all night tripping out. “I didn’t sleep a wink.” By morning, he decided to call police. He testified he didn’t call sooner because of “street code.” He said he has been a convict his whole life and didn’t want to be a rat. He had a friend who had spent 39 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, and now he was afraid the same thing would happen to him.

First, he called his friend, Detective Mike Bender, in Orange County who gave him a number to call. At 9:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day, Adam Siplyak called the police.

Attorney Carlos: Adam Siplyak Is A Liar

On cross-examination, Marc Carlos jumped right into Adam’s guilty plea of stalking his ex-girlfriend, Kristi, and making criminal threats. When Carlos stated Adam sent threatening texts to Kristi, Adam would not agree, saying instead he forget he sent them as he sent so many texts. When Adam testified he tells the truth, Carlos pounced. “Really? Did you tell the truth in your stalking case?” Carlos pointed out Adam told a detective he didn’t threaten Kristi. Carlos then read the violent, profanity leaden texts, which included, “You deserve to die,” “I’m going to cut his throat and beat the fuck out of you,” and he was going to staple the restraining order to her forehead. On and on read Carlos, but no matter how violent the words,  Adam clung to his testimony that he told the truth as he didn’t recall sending threatening texts.

Carlos moved on to Adam’s relationship with Jade. Adam admitted he wanted to have sex with her when they reconnected. He tried while they were in Mexico, but she rejected him. When she reached out to him on December 31st,  he thought “he might get lucky.”

Adam said Jade told him, “He wasn’t dying fast enough so I strangled him.” When asked if he told the police, he answered he believed he did. From Carlos’ tone, it sounded like he didn’t.

What Did the Toxicology Reveal?

The parties stipulated to the toxicology report that Tom Merriman had the following in his system:

     Zolpidem .39 mg/L

     Trazadone .78 mg/L

     Oxycodone .04 mg/L

     Gabapentin <10 mg.

     Lidocaine – Detected

Tom Merriman had been prescribed all of these drugs, except the Gabapentin, for which Jade Janks held a prescription.

What Did The Autopsy Reveal? Dr. Greg Pizarro

Dr. Greg Pizarro is a forensic pathologist and Deputy Medical Examiner for San Diego County. He conducted an autopsy on Tom Merriman on January 3, 2021, and listed the cause of death as Acute Zolpidem Intoxication with the contributing factors of cardiomegaly (enlargement of the heart) and hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver). He found no evidence of strangulation, asphyxia, or suffocation.

When questioned about the Zolpidem, he stated .39 mg/L was in the level of toxic but not lethal. To be lethal, the amount of Zolpidem in Tom’s system would  have had to be 5 times the amount (at the low end) to 20 times the amount (at the high end). Tom’s liver dysfunction effected how medication left his system and a drug’s half-life lived longer.

Pointing to the purple discoloration covering Tom’s face, Dr. Pizarro stated it was lividity, which occurs when blood pools down and becomes fixed. He estimated Tom’s time of death to be 12-18 hours from the time he was discovered.

At the time of the autopsy, Dr. Pizarro did not find any petechia. Petechia hemorrhages result when small blood vessels burst and can be seen in strangulation cases. However, on October 21, 2022, when the district attorney investigator showed him a blown-up photograph of Tom’s eye, Dr. Pizarro found petechia. On the witness stand he stated there was petechia by the eye, but soon enough, corrected himself, saying it was just congestion. Later in his testimony, he said any petechia was based on the lividity.

Dr. Pizarro performed an anterior neck dissection and found no hemorrhages, fracture to the hyoid bone, or injuries to the thyroid cartilage, which are injuries seen in strangulation. When asked by the prosecutor if a person were intoxicated or obtunded, if it was possible not to see injuries but to still have been strangled, he responded, “It’s possible,” as less force needs to be applied.

A contentious cross-examination followed as Dr. Pizarro fought Carlos’ questions,  causing Carlos to become even more forceful. Carlos immediately raised the point Dr. Pizarro had been told Tom was suffocated with a plastic bag prior to his conducting the autopsy. He agreed, but stated he never saw the bag. Had the knowledge influenced his findings? Dr. Pizarro stated he always reviews the investigation before looking at a body.

Dr. Pizarro then said when someone is strangled there will be some signs, but with suffocation, there will be no physical signs and it can only be proved by a confession. In response, Carlos pointedly said, “You cannot say by any degree of medical certainty Tom Merriman was suffocated or strangled?” Dr. Pizarro agreed.

Carlos went further. Even with a confession, there was still no evidence of strangulation or suffocation. Again, Dr. Pizarro agreed. He then stated he did factor the confession in when determining the cause of death, but Carlos would have the last word. “But it was still Acute Zolpidem Intoxication.”

Dr. Steven Campman: There Was No Evidence of Strangulation

Dr. Steven Campman is a forensic pathologist and the Chief Medical Examiner of San Diego County. Although he did not conduct the autopsy on Tom Merriman, he reviewed Dr. Pizarro’s report and signed off on it.

In testifying about strangulation, he said it takes 4-4.5 pounds of pressure to close the jugular veins, which veins drain blood from the brain. It takes 11 pounds of pressure to close the carotid artery, which takes blood to the brain. For comparison purposes, he said it takes 12 pounds of pressure to open a soda or beer can.

In addressing strangulation injuries, he said outside injuries include abrasions, scrapes, bruises, and small petechial hemorrhages. Inside injuries include hemorrhages in the layers of the muscle of the neck and swelling in the linings of the throat. If a rope is used, there may be abrasions in the shape of the rope. In manual strangulation, there can be damage to the hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage.

Prosecutor Del Portillo asked if there can be strangulation, but no signs of injury. Dr. Campman  answered it depends upon where the force is applied. He then testified fatal strangulation can be caused without leaving any evidence.

Dr. Campman said a plastic bag over the head causes asphyxia, which is suffocation. A pillowcase is less likely to leave marks as it spreads the force out. If a person is intoxicated or obtunded the respiratory system is already depressed, and a plastic bag would accelerate death. If intoxicated or unconscious, there is no resistance.

In regard to petechial hemorrhages, Dr. Campman stated they are not seen in all strangulation cases if there is not enough pressure to cause the blood vessels to burst. He saw petechia on Tom’s face to the right of his eye. He pointed to the little red dots. He then said Tardieu spots are petechia and found in areas of lividity.

On cross-examination, Dr. Campman clarified the red dots were petechial hemorrhages, but they were more associated with Tardieu spots from the lividity rather than strangulation. He agreed he reviewed the medical report and nowhere did it say there was strangulation or asphyxia. Again, to make the point perfectly clear, Carlos stated that he can’t say with any medical certainty there was strangulation or asphyxia. Dr. Campman agreed.

When asked if they look to extraneous facts besides the body in determining the cause of death, he answered, “You must.” Addressing a confession, Carlos raised the fact Dr. Campman didn’t know the veracity of the claimant who said there was a confession. Dr. Campman responded he looks to how the person is found. He then said even in a case with a confession, listing a cause of death as “undetermined” would be  reasonable. In this case, Tom’s Zolpidem level was not fatal, but equivalent to impaired driving. He would have listed the cause of death as undetermined.

Prosecutor Del Portillo was not going to let the issue of strangulation or asphyxia rest. “You are not saying strangulation, asphyxia didn’t occur?” Over and over, he asked, with Carlos nearly laughing at the attempts. Yet Carlos had the last word, asking once again, “You can’t say to any medical certainty there was strangulation or asphyxia.” Correct.

The Defense Calls Their Own Expert Witness: A Medical Toxicologist

Dr. Charles O’Connell is an emergency room doctor and medical toxicologist. He said he has sat at bedsides of patients with overdoses, and testified you have to take quite a bit of Ambien to overdose. He has even seen patients survive who have taken 30, 40, or 50 Ambien.

Dr. O’Connell said four medications were found in Tom Merriman’s blood, but he reviewed his medical records and stated Tom had a lot of underlying issues. Tom was admitted to Scripps Hospital with a blood alcohol content of .256. He had alcohol hepatitis, hepatic (liver) dysfunction, a pacemaker, an enlarged heart, congestive heart failure, swollen and congested lungs, emphysema from prolonged smoking, 30-40% blockage of his arteries, and broken ribs from his recent fall. Tom spent nine days in the hospital and in addition to his broken ribs, he was treated for alcohol and Xanax withdrawal.

With hepatic dysfunction, Dr. O’Connell testified it takes a longer time for drugs to leave the body and according to the F.D.A. Ambien doses should be reduced. Dr. O’Connell himself would not even prescribe Ambien to a person with liver dysfunction. Ambien clears the body within 11-16 hours but if taken daily and with liver dysfunction, it can stack. When asked if Zolpidem (Ambien) could stack, he replied, “It is very possible.” Tom was given 10 mg of Zolpidem each day from December 28th through December 31st.

Dr. O’Connell said Zolpidem of .39 would not alone cause death, that it was not definitely fatal, and he could not confirm it was an intentional overdose. The Trazadone was below toxicity and the Oxycodone was within the therapeutic range.

On cross-examination, when Del Portillo said he usually works for the defense, Dr. O’Connell replied he usually works for the public defender and is paid by the county. When asked how much he is being paid in this case, he answered he was paid $3,000 for his initial review and a 6-page report. He receives $400 per hour for his testimony and $200 per hour for travel time. On redirect, Carlos asked, “Has anyone told you how to testify?” to which he responded “No.” He went on to say he sees his role as a teacher and he would make more money working a shift, and “it’s less stressful,” which made the jury smile.

DNA Evidence on the Zolpidem Packet of Pills

Jade’s DNA was found at 9% on the Zolpidem blister pack. Tom’s was excluded.

Jade Janks Testifies About That Fateful Day

Jade Janks, the last witness in the trial, testified through tears and often meandering testimony, but what she was very clear about is this: She did not kill her stepfather.

After describing her relationship with Tom and her very emotional testimony of finding the nude photographs, Marc Carlos moved to the elephant in the room. What did she mean when she wrote, “I just dosed the hell out of him?” Jade sidestepped the issue saying Alan Roach was not thrilled to be there as it was New Year’s Eve day, before launching into Tom’s actions. She said when Tom got in the car he was agitated and complained he had not slept at Aviara. He called the place a “shithole.” He grabbed the pill holder in the center console of her car which contained her Gabapentin. He took it as they were leaving Aviara. Tom then wanted whiskey and his prescriptions at CVS, so Jade  went into BevMo and CVS. When she told Tom there were no prescriptions for him, he threw a fit. “How am I going to sleep?” he said.

As she couldn’t get ahold of Alan Roach, she decided to try to stall longer. She went into Dixieline. She explained the purchase of the terry towels, red rope, and paint were for an outdoor project she was working on. The zip ties were to secure the tarp.

Jade said all her texting was not about murder, but that she was in a panic and “fear of what’s to come.” As she still couldn’t get ahold of Alan Roach, she could not wait any longer and drove home. She placed Tom’s walker in the driveway. He made it a step or two before falling hard on the ground. He was too heavy to lift, so she tied towels together to try to hoist him up. She got him up, but he fell again. This time she could not get him back up. She called Sarah, and Sarah and Justin came to help. Justin put Tom in the back of her car. Tom was mumbling and hard to understand. She decided to take him back to Aviara. She cut the red rope to secure Tom’s walker so it would not fall on him.

Jade called Aviara and was told the charge nurse would call her back. Not hearing back, she drove to Aviara, but they would not let her in because of COVID restrictions. Again, she was told the charge nurse would call her. As she left Aviara, “I had this fear building,” testified Jade. She still hadn’t heard back from Alan Roach.

She drove back to her house. Alan Roach finally texted her he couldn’t make it and was sending Brian Salomon, whom she had never met. When Brian arrived, she was standing next to her car and told him, “This is my stepfather. He’s had a fall. I just need you to help. Can you carry him nicely into the house?” Carlos then asked, “Did you tell this stranger you never met to strangle your stepfather?” “No,” said Jade. “Did you and Alan Roach conspire for $200 to kill your stepfather?” “No.” Jade said it was hard to describe how she was feeling as she cared about Tom, but he was also so vile, and she was repulsed by him. She felt helpless.

Jade contacted Adam Siplyak and when he arrived, she told him she wanted him to take Tom into her house. Adam got really upset with her and said, “You brought me into a crime scene because he is going to overdose.” He also said, “You’re trying to set me up.” Jade denied ever telling Adam she killed Tom, put a bag over him, and strangled him.

Finally, Jade decided to leave Tom in the back of her car and went into her house to sleep. Jade explained that on several occasions Tom would be so intoxicated she would have to go pick him up, and he would pass out in her car. She would leave him to sleep it off, although checking on him. It always turned out okay. But this time would be much different.

In the morning, Jade checked on Tom. He was in the same position as the night before. “I didn’t want him to be dead,” she said as her voice began to shake. She went into a full panic. “Why didn’t you call 911?” asked Carlos. “I don’t think I really wanted to know. I don’t want it to be true,” said Jade.

When Carlos asked, “Did you touch Mr. Merriman?” Jade broke down crying, “Yes.” She tried to pull his leg and it was cold. “Did you think he was dead?” to which Jade responded, “I knew he was dead.”

Again, Carlos asked, “Why didn’t you call 911?” Sobbing hard, Jade said, “I was scared. I didn’t want to get blamed. I was the one who had just picked him up…I had destroyed his computer…I didn’t want to be blamed for killing him.”

Jade didn’t know what to do. She got the wheelchair and tried to put Tom in it, but missed and he fell into the driveway. She panicked. She didn’t want the neighbors to see, so she got empty boxes and stacked them on him. “I needed help. I wanted someone to talk to,” she said softly before continuing, “I didn’t want to get blamed for something I didn’t do.”

Jade had no plan. Finally, she decided she wanted to find a criminal attorney to help her inform the police of Tom’s body, and as she was driving to a building where she knew attorneys worked, she was pulled over. She sent the text to Alan Roach, “Lose my number,” as she didn’t want him to get blamed. She didn’t tell the police where Tom was as she didn’t want to be blamed.

Displaying a photo of Tom Merriman on the big courtroom screen, Marc Carlos asked “Did you reach out to people to kill Mr. Merriman? Did you dose him with medications? Did you grab his neck with your own hands?” Jade answered, “No” to each question as she sobbed loudly.

On cross-examination, prosecutor Del Portillo raised the fact Jade never contacted her father or any of her friends for help. On and on he listed the people she did not call. Instead, Jade reached out to a man she did not know. As Del Portillo read through the text messages to Alan Roach and others, Jade stuck to her testimony that the plan was to confront Tom.

Then up went the message, “I just dosed the hell out of him.” It would stay on the big screen for nearly the rest of the cross. Why did Jade write this? “I’m not sure we got an answer,” said Del Portillo. “That phrase. I guess it was poor phrasing,” Jade responded before explaining she wanted Alan Roach to come help her. Then Del Portillo said, “You didn’t dose Tom? Your DNA was on the Zolpidem, Tom’s wasn’t.” Jade had already explained she opened the bag of medications as she wanted to see what had been prescribed. Del Portillo kept going, “You would agree “I dosed the hell out of him’ implies you gave Mr. Merriman a whole lot of drugs?” Jade responded, “It does sound like that.” Del Portillo moved onto new questioning, leaving the text on the screen.

When Del Portillo asked Jade about her statement to Alan Roach, “It’s going  to be like weekend at Bernie’s,” a movie the prosecutor said was about a murdered person, where it’s staged to look like an overdose, and Bernie’s dead body is moved about, Jade had an answer. It wasn’t about murder, but a phrase she used, “When you’re carrying somebody home and they’re kind of dragging along, you know, out of it.”

Del Portillo then questioned why Jade would tell Brian Salomon to bring Tom into her apartment if she was so afraid of him. Jade answered she hates, fears, and disgusts Tom, but he was her stepfather and was not doing well.

Del Portillo questioned why Jade did not contact her family or friends for help once Tom died, reading once again through the exhaustive list. Jade cried throughout.

Wrapping up his cross, Del Portillo questioned about the wheelchair. Jade said on January 1st she went to Scripps Hospital to pick it up while Tom was still in her car. Del Portillo emphasized that although she had not confirmed he was dead, she never asked for help.

And with that, Jade Janks time on the witness stand was done. Both sides rested their cases. There would be no more witnesses, only the attorneys’ closing arguments.

Marc Carlos Asks Judge Kearney to Include Lesser Charges

On December 16th Marc Carlos told Judge Kearney he wanted the weekend to discuss lesser charges with his client. Jade Janks had been charged with first-degree murder, a conviction which would mean a mandatory sentence of 25-years-to-life. Carlos clearly saw the need for lesser charges, but Jade wanted all or nothing. Could she be persuaded?

On Monday, December 19th, I saw Carlos in the court hallway placing his hands on Jade’s shoulders and saying, “Come on Jade. It’s so long.” Once in court, Carlos told Judge Kearney he and his client held different positions. She did not want any lessors, but he believed the evidence required it. Therefore, he said over his client’s objection, he was requesting voluntary and involuntary manslaughter jury instructions.

Judge Kearney agreed there was a sufficient legal basis for voluntary manslaughter under heat of passion, and involuntary manslaughter with her giving him medication and leaving him in the car. Under the 1995 California Supreme Court case of  People v. Barton, the court had a sua sponte obligation to instruct on lesser charges.

Later in the morning, attorney Carlos informed Judge Kearney Jade was now in agreement with the lesser instructions being given.

Prosecution Closing Argument: Jade Janks Is Guilty of Murder

Jade Janks plotted to kill Tom Merriman and “she would have gotten away with it if she had gotten him into that bed. That’s the scariest part,” said Del Portillo in his closing argument.

He told the jury Jade Janks had the motive, means, and opportunity, and on December 30th her text at 12:40 p.m. to Mike Liebhard showed she had made the decision to kill. “I struggle with moral issues. Yet I will never not be looking over my shoulder so I made the call.” Then at 6:46 p.m. that same day, she texted Alan Roach, “I’ve got a plan.” And at 7:13 p.m. she wrote, “I’ve given this some thought. I have an easy solution.”

Within minutes, Portillo put up the text everybody had come to know so well, “I just dosed the hell out of him.” He went on to say she stalled to wait for the drugs to kick in, going into Dixieline to buy the “murder kit.”  Text after text scrolled across the big screen, with Portillo reading the words to the jury.

He stated the time of death was before 5:23 p.m. and that Jade sent a text to Tom at 5:23 p.m. saying, “Checking on ya. How feeling?” to act as if he were still alive.

Attorney Portillo argued the prosecution’s case for one hour and 20 minutes, going through each aspect. He read the words of Brian Salomon, Adam Siplyak, Maria Bravo, Justin Hoffman, saying it was all corroboration of Jade’s drugging, suffocating, and strangling of Tom Merriman. “Why would they lie?” he asked.

He closed by saying, “Jade Janks is guilty as charged.”

Defense Closing Argument: They Have Zero Evidence to Support Murder

Filled with passion, Marc Carlos told the jury Jade Janks had no motive to kill Tom Merriman. Scream at him, tell him what he did was vile, yes, but not murder him. Jade Janks loved her stepfather. She was his caregiver, the only person who took care of him. “Nobody, nobody, but Jade Janks” took care of him, Carlos exclaimed.

“She was there for him, but he was not there for her,” he continued. When she found the photos, “All of a sudden your world crashes.” Carlos displayed the nude photos with the sensitive areas blocked out. “The devastation. The betrayal. The fear.” What’s he going to do when he finds out?

Addressing the text messages, Carlos said there was no evidence in the texts that Jade conspired with Alan Roach to kill and there were no texts asking him to kill. He said “there is no Alan Roach here to tell you. Just texts that are subject to interpretation.”

When Tom got into the car, he complained about not being able to sleep. He was in pain and agony. He opened the pill box and took the Gabapentin. He demanded whiskey and medication. Jade went into BevMo and CVS. When Jade informed him there were no medications for him at CVS, he was furious. For 34 minutes, Tom was left alone with his bag of medications. “All he wants to do is sleep,” said Carlos.

If Jade had really wanted to kill, she would have used more Zolpidem. The defense expert, Dr. Charles O’Connell, said the blood concentration of the medications found in Tom’s system couldn’t conclusively confirm intentional overdose or definitive fatal intoxication. The medical examiner, Dr. Steven Campman, said the Zolpidem levels were not fatal and were equivalent to impaired driving. Carlos addressed Jade’s DNA on the blister pack of Zolpidem, saying it was only 9%, which could have gotten there by DNA transfer as she and Tom were in her car frequently.

Carlos went on to say, “The prosecution is panicking.” The medications are not strong enough, so they need more. They turned to strangulation and putting a bag over Tom’s head. But both medical doctors said there was no evidence of strangulation, suffocation, asphyxia. Dr. Campman, the strangulation expert, said he would have found the cause of death undetermined. There is no evidence Tom was lightly strangled, suffocated with a bag, a pillowcase put over his head, or choked with red paracord.

Carlos turned his attention to Brian Salomon and Adam Siplyak, lambasting both for their lies. Brian Salomon claimed the domestic violence assaults never happened. Only after picking up these two cases, and 18 months after his first interview, he remembers Jade asked him to strangle Tom. He is given immunity. Adam Siplyak, under oath, said he always tells the truth and didn’t remember sending any of the threatening texts in his stalking case. Carlos read the most violent of them, including “I’m going to cut his throat and beat the fuck out of you” and “Fuck you and your restraining order. I will staple it to your forehead when I’m done.” Summing up Adam Siplyak, Carlos exclaimed, “You can’t believe him. He’s a LIAR!”

Returning to Jade, he said she panicked. “Your mind’s spinning.” There’s no playbook here on how to react. She touched Tom’s leg and panics. She was worried she would be blamed. That is why she tried to cover up.

Carlos argued to the jury for one hour and 15 minutes, concluding with, “They have zero evidence to support a murder. There is evidence after Tom dies, Jade panics.”

He told the jury to come back with the only verdict that supports the evidence, which is not guilty. “Jade Janks loved her stepfather, would never have hurt him, and never killed him, and she just panicked. That’s why she’s here…But panic is not a crime, and speculation is not evidence.”

Prosecution Rebuttal: Find Jade Janks Guilty of Murder

In response to Carlos’ argument there was zero evidence of murder, prosecutor Del Portillo listed 15 pieces of evidence, including motive, dosing Tom, the incriminating text messages, and the confessions.

Again, Del Portillo said when intoxicated or obtunded, evidence will not be seen. Going to Brian Salomon and Adam Siplyak, he asked, “Why would they lie?” These people did not know each other, but their testimony corroborated.

He then said to put great weight on all the lies Jade Janks told. She said the plan was to confront Tom with Alan Roach present and demand he delete the photos, but she had already deleted them. She did this the morning of the murder in order to get rid of the evidence of her motive. She lied about Tom dosing himself, saying her text was just a poor choice of words.

In closing, he said, “Find her guilty of murder. The evidence proves it. The law requires it. Justice demands it.”

The jury would hear no more. It was now time for them to deliberate. At 9:40 a.m. on Tuesday, December 20, 2022, they filed out of the courtroom. What would they decide? And how long would it take?

As it turned out, not long. The next morning, around 9:30 a.m., it was announced a verdict had been reached.

The Verdict: The Fate of Jade Janks Is Announced

As everyone rushed to the courtroom, tension filled the air. I saw Marc Carlos in the parking lot, impeccable dressed, concern etched in his face. As I walked through security, a member of Jade’s family was behind me. She let out a really deep sigh and I could feel her anxiety. Upon entering the courtroom, I looked over at Jade, who appeared nervous and was breathing hard. Next to me one of Tom’s brothers was also taking deep breaths.

Waiting for a verdict to be read is beyond stressful and deeply emotional for all involved. As the jury walked in, attorney Carlos leaned back in his chair, the prosecutors sat upright, their eyes on the jury. The moment was here.

And then it was over. Guilty of first-degree murder! Jade looked stunned, turned to attorney Carlos with huge eyes, disbelief and confusion on her face. He whispered to her quietly and put his arm around her. The family of Tom Merriman exhaled and hugged each other with tears in their eyes. Many of Jade’s family and friends were also crying, hands covering their face in despair, clutching tightly to each other.

Jade Janks was handcuffed and taken into custody. As she was led out the door by two sheriff deputies, she turned to look towards her family, a look of shock and confusion still on her face. She will be sentenced on April 3, 2023, and faces 25-years-to-life.

Press Conference: Final Words From All Sides

The jurors quickly left the courtroom, none wishing to speak with the media. Attorney Carlos spoke briefly, stating he had gone back to see Jade. He said, “Jade is very emotional and afraid about what lies ahead. So, it is very difficult when this happens.” When asked about the text messages, he said, “Well, clearly with the text messages that really hurt. The text messages were words. It’s hard to really get around words and they appeared, at least the jury believed it to be some sort of premeditation, and that’s really kinda what set it down. I think it’s her own words in those texts that did it. However, we believe still there’s an absence of evidence that shows that she’s the actual perpetrator of this, as well as how it happened. So that’s an issue to kinda take up…post-trial issues and maybe even an appeal.”

Prosecutors Del Portillo and Teresa Pham said they were happy justice was achieved, thanked the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and the jurors. “We were confident that the jury was going to find the truth, and the truth in this case was that the defendant, Jade Janks, murdered Tom Merriman.”

Tom’s brothers, Terrence and Pat, who had flown in for the trial, and Tom’s Butterfly Farms partner, Pat, stood before the cameras. A heartbroken trio of grief. Terrence had testified in the trial Tom came from a big family, seven children in total, many of whom close-knit to Tom. Unhappy with the ever-present media camp and their running cameras, Terrence once called the media “vultures.” But now his anger seemed replaced by only a deep sadness as he read a long statement which he said was from Tom’s family and friends. They thanked the jury, the prosecutors, the sheriff’s department, and Judge Kearney. Then he read, “To be sure, there are no winners today. More than one family has lost loved ones in this tragedy. We are deeply saddened at the loss of Thomas John Merriman….Tom was a great father, son, brother, and friend. We want him to be remembered for his compassionate, kind, generous, caring, and selfless nature. We will do our best to remember him for his genius talent, to grow and nurture living things. Please smile when you think of Tom. He would want that.”

About Aleida K. Wahn, Esq.

I am an attorney, award-winning true crime writer, and legal analyst of criminal cases. I cover criminal trials and write stories and books about compelling, gripping, and unforgettable cases that impact our world. I take you into the courtroom in high-profile murder trials, rape cases, crimes of passion, cases involving mental illness, deviant behavior, and more. I have a deep passion for true crime, criminal law, and all aspects of the criminal justice system. I have appeared as an expert on true crime shows, including “48 Hours,” “Snapped,” and “The Dead Files,” and provided legal analysis on high-profile criminal trials on Court TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Fox 5 News, ABC 10 News, and KUSI News. I also create and host shows with the Del Mar Television Producers Group, addressing criminal justice and social issues in recent criminal trials.

I provided my insight and legal analysis on Court TV and the Law & Crime Trial Network of the high-profile trial of former NFL star Kellen Winslow Jr. It was a trial that captured the nation as the heralded ex-football star with fame, fortune, and a famous name stood accused of multiple rapes and other sex crimes involving five women. As the trial delved into shocking facts, complicated legal issues, and unexpected twists and turns, I was there for every minute. After the trial, I wrote a book on the case, going behind the headlines to share the extraordinary details of what happened inside the courtroom. Judging Winslow Jr.: From NFL Star to Serial Rapist? Inside the Shocking Rape Trial of Kellen Boswell Winslow II is now available on Amazon.

I am passionate about telling true crime stories, as these penetrating stories have the power to move us all, while highlighting societal issues which need to be addressed. I have personally seen the human devastation which is present in each trial and believe there is a lesson to be learned in every single case. It is through awareness and examining critical issues society can effect change and even make new laws. To learn more, please visit: https://www.aleidalaw.com.

Read about the gripping and unforgettable trials that I have covered in my latest books: