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ENCINITAS, Calif. – Fighting back tears Monday, the longtime business partner of a Solana Beach man found dead in his home on New Year’s Day says he’s “shocked” by the loss.

Butterfly Farms co-founder Pat Flanagan fights back tears on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, while discussing the death of longtime business partner Thomas Merriman. Merriman, 64, was found dead in his Solana Beach home on New Year’s Day by sheriff’s deputies on a welfare check. A 37-year-old woman who lived at the home with Merriman has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Authorities say the body of 64-year-old Thomas Merriman was discovered Friday by deputies on a welfare check at a home in the 100 block of South Nardo Avenue. A 37-year-old woman, Jade Sasha Janks, who lived at the home with Merriman, later was booked into Vista Detention Facility on suspicion of murder, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Pat Flanagan said he first heard the news about Merriman — with whom he co-founded an Encinitas-based conservation nonprofit called Butterfly Farms — Monday in an early morning email.

“I didn’t realize it until today, but I spent more time with Tom than even my own kids,” Flanagan said.

Merriman had been out of work for a month recovering from a fall after eye surgery, according to Flanagan. The two men, who founded Butterfly Farms in 2012, last had spoken within in the past week, he said.

“He was at home convalescing and in a lot of pain,” Flanagan said, “so I was kind of leaving him alone. I saw that he was checking emails and we talked via text.”

Authorities are continuing to investigate the cause and manner of Merriman’s death. The nature of Janks’ relationship with Merriman has not been publicly disclosed.

Flanagan said Merriman’s death has hit him hard, particularly as the two often were together seven days a week for about a decade. But he’s pledging to carry on in Merriman’s honor.

“(Tom) was passionate, as am I, and it’s hard to walk away from something that is doing good and you’re passionate about it,” he said.