Not guilty plea from woman accused in death of Butterfly Farms co-founder

Tom Merriman
Tom Merriman, one of the founders of Butterfly Farms, a non-profit organization that focuses on education and conservation in Encinitas, looks at caterpillar eggs on Aug. 13, 2019.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Jade Janks, 37, is accused of killing Thomas Merriman in his Solana Beach home. He was found New Year’s Day


A 37-year-old woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday, Jan. 12, to murder in the death of a Solana Beach man who co-founded the education and research nonprofit Butterfly Farms.

Jade Sasha Janks is charged with murder in the death of Thomas Merriman, and an allegation that the killing was premeditated, according to the complaint prosecutors have filed in the case. Janks is accused of killing Merriman in his Solana Beach home. He was found New Year’s Day

Family and friends said Janks was Merriman’s former stepdaughter.

No new information in the case was revealed during her brief arraignment in Vista Superior Court. However, she is due back in court Jan. 27 for a hearing to ask a judge to set bail, and more detail could come to light at that time. Janks has been held without bail since her arrest Jan. 2.

According to the criminal complaint, authorities believe Merriman died on Dec. 31 in the residence on Nardo Avenue, off Lomas Santa Fe Drive west of Interstate 5.

The following day, Jan. 1, deputies went to the home to check on his welfare, sheriff’s homicide Lt. Thomas Seiver said. The circumstances led homicide detectives to take over the investigation. They obtained a search warrant and went into the home, where they found Merriman’s body.

Janks was arrested the next day.

Merriman is one of the minds behind Butterfly Farms, a half-acre vivarium in Encinitas that hosts school kids, garden clubs and the like, and also hosted an annual exhibit at the San Diego County Fair.

— Teri Figueroa is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune
— Staff writer Pam Kragen contributed to this report.