When Debra Newell met John Meehan online in 2014, she was immediately swept off her feet. He had a good job, made her laugh, and seemed to genuinely care about her. But her daughters never warmed up to their mother's new husband, and something about him just seemed a little...off. The hit podcast from the Los Angeles Times, called Dirty John, tells the story of how this seemingly dream relationship turned deadly. Now, Bravo is releasing their own adaptation of Dirty John, a fictionalized account of the real story of Newell and her villainous husband starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana. Her story is so compelling that viewers will definitely be happy to hear about where Debra Newell is in 2018, having overcome so much trauma.
It seems that Newell has been able to move on from the trauma that visited her and her family. At the end of Christopher Goffard's Los Angeles Times profile of the story, he notes that Newell has been able to bridge the divides that splintered her family apart as a result of her marriage to Meehan. Newell's children from previous marriages, especially her daughters Jacquelyn and Terra, felt suspicious of their mother's new husband, and Meehan himself took great pains to keep Newell isolated from her family, per The Los Angeles Times. But since the marriage ended in his death, Goffard reports that Newell is "close with her kids again...[Newell and her daughters] talk every day, sometimes just to say 'I love you.'"
Newell had been married and divorced four times before she met Meehan online, according to the Los Angeles Times. And at first, her relationship with Meehan seemed too good to be true. He was handsome, and claimed to be a wealthy and successful anesthesiologist who had worked with Doctors Without Borders. After Newell's daughters hired a private investigator to check him out, they shared their chilling findings with their mother; Meehan's full time job was not as an anesthesiologist, but as a dangerous con-man, targeting wealthy, single women like Newell, according to People.
It quickly became clear that Meehan had a history of violence and drug addiction. But Goffard told The New Yorker that the most chilling thing about him was "how successfully John was able to impersonate a normal human being, and how that left this abiding confusion in Debra and the mayhem that he left behind.” This air of normalcy is part of what caused Newell to go back to Meehan again and again, despite the warnings of her family.
In August of 2016, Newell's youngest daughter, Terra, pulled into the parking lot of her condo complex to find Meehan there waiting for her, per the same Los Angeles Times report. As reported in E! News, Meehan was armed with a "kidnapping kit:" a backpack, duct tape, cable ties, and a set of knives. He attacked Terra, stabbing her multiple times. But miraculously, Terra was able to fight him off. She and her dog Cash overpowered Meehan, stabbing his chest, his shoulders, his back, and, finally, through his left eye and into his brain, per the same report. Meehan later died in the hospital after Newell, who was still legally married to him, agreed to take her husband off life support.
Today, Newell and Terra (fully recovered from her injuries) are closer than ever, and Newell is not exactly ready to jump into another relationship. "She doesn’t need a boyfriend or a husband, a year later, and said she has no desire to date," the Los Angeles Times profile states. It also notes that Newell, a successful interior designer, has continued to throw herself into her work.
Newell hopes that by sharing her story with the world, both in the non-fiction podcast and fictionalized Bravo series, she can help other women in unhealthy relationships. “I was hoping this would reach a broader market and be able to help people through [experiences] with this type of man and realize what was out there,” Newell told Variety of the scripted Bravo show. John Meehan might have changed Newell's life, but he in no way ruined it. In this story, it's the women who come out on top.