Local News


Local woman shares the story behind 'Dirty John'

Her story is being turned into Bravo mini-series
Posted at 6:23 PM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-22 10:31:33-05

A true-crime podcast so popular, it's being turned into a Bravo mini-series. It's centered around a mother now living in Henderson, who fell in love with a con artist.

Debra Newell thought she was going to live happily ever after. She's a successful interior design, she has a beautiful family, and when she met John Meehan on a dating site, she thought she had it all.

"He swept me off my feet," Debra said. 

John seemed like the perfect man. He said he was a doctor, owned multiple homes, and adored Debra, but her daughters weren't so sure.

"She was like mom, something's off. I don't like this guy. And I would say oh you're being so judgemental. You say that about everyone I've dated. Give him a chance," Debra told her daughters.

After just a few months, they got married in Las Vegas, but the honeymoon didn't last. Her family continued to question why he never had any friends around, why he didn't have any family. They say his stories didn't always add up, and he was in a rush from day one.    

"I now realize that this is a red flag but he pushed so quickly, and I looked at it as, wow he's just really into me, not realizing there was an ulterior motive," Debra said. 

Debra's family hired a private investigator. They found prison records, restraining orders, signs of drug addiction, and proof he wasn't a doctor at all.

After a few months, Debra knew she had to leave, for good. She had to disappear, away from him, while living in constant fear.    

"I felt he was dangerous and he would come after me so I went into the stages of wearing a wig, driving a rental car, staying in different hotels," Debra said. 

Eventually John tracked Debra's family down, but he didn't come after her. He waited for her daughter, Terra, in a parking lot, and attacked.

"I think he thought that she was the easiest target," Debra said. 

John stabbed Terra multiple times before she was able to knock the knife out of his hand, and that's when she knew, she had her chance. 

"She knew one place to stab would be into the eye and so she just started stabbing and she got him right in the eye and she killed him," Debra said.

Now, Debra has made it her mission to help other people in similar situations. It hasn't been easy for her to keep tell her story, reliving the worst time in her life, but she wants to use her experience to hopefully save others from going through the same thing.