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Murder Case Against Woman Accused of Killing Her Stepfather, Co-Founder of Butterfly Farms Moves to Trial

During the hearing, Janks appeared calm as she listened to the testimony of five witnesses brought on by the prosecution

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New details have emerged in the murder case of a woman accused of killing her stepfather, Butterfly Farms co-founder, Thomas Merriman. 

Jade Janks, 37, faced the court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing to determine whether her case would move on to trial.

Janks pleaded not guilty to killing her stepfather Thomas Merriman on New Year's Eve 2020.

Merriman and Janks’ mother had divorced years ago, but according to people close to the family, both Janks and her stepfather maintained a relationship. 

During the hearing, Janks appeared calm as she listened to the testimony of five witnesses brought on by the prosecution. 

The first witness to take the stand was Lisa Brannan, a homicide detective with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. She was brought in to testify about her interview with a man named Adam Sipliac who she says is the person who reported the crime to the police. 

Brannan says Sipliac told her he received a call from Janks on Dec. 31, 2020, around noon telling him Merriman was in her driveway on drugs and that she needed help getting him home. Sipliac told her he was busy and couldn’t make it, but eventually went over to Janks’ home around 7 p.m.

According to Brannan, Janks told Sipliac that she had found pictures of herself on Merriman’s computer and that she felt he was obsessed with her. 

While Sipliac was over, Brannan says, Janks confessed to murdering Merriman.

“Ms. Janks told Mr. Sipliac that she killed her stepfather and she said, ‘I suffocated him with a bag and I choked him,'" said Brannan. “She also said that she gave him a bunch of drugs.”

According to Brannan, Janks then wanted Sipliac’s help in covering up the murder.

“She wanted his help with getting the body out of her car,” said Brannan. “She wanted to take her stepfather to his home and put him in his bed. She wanted to look like he had overdosed in his bed as he had died in his bed.”

Brannan says Sipliac told her he refused to help Janks. He then smoked a cigarette with Janks. Hugged and kissed her before leaving. 

During cross-examination, Janks' defense argued Sipliac is a recovering drug addict with a romantic interest in Janks. 

Brannan testified Sipliac had told her the two would cuddle and kiss but never had sex. 

The second witness to take the stand was SDSO Deputy Brett Fuller. He testified he was the one who arrested Janks and took her in after Merriman’s body was found. He described her demeanor as calm during the time of the arrest. 

The third witness was SDSO Detective Matthew Gibson, the lead detective on the case. In his testimony, he said detectives were called out to Merriman’s home on January 1, one day after he was murdered. 

According to Gibson, Merriman’s body wasn’t found until 7 a.m. on January 2. Gibson said the body was found in a pile of trash in the driveway area between Janks’ and Merriman’s home. According to the detective, the two were neighbors.

The fourth witness to take the stand was Raymond Gary, a toxicologist for San Diego County Crime Lab. At the time of the murder, Gary worked for the medical examiner's office. 

He testified to finding an unusually high level of zolpidem, a sleeping drug, in Merriman. 

The fifth witness to take the stand was Dr. Greg Pizarro, deputy medical examiner for San Diego County. 

Pizarro was involved in Merriman’s cause of death. He testified to concluding his cause of death as acute zolpidem intoxication. 

The hearing came to an end with Judge Michael D. Washington determining there was enough probable cause to move on to trial. 

If convicted, Jade Janks faces life in prison. Janks is due in court next on March 10 for a bail hearing.

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