However gripping and terrifying you found Bravo"s thriller series Dirty John, it"s nopoint compared to the real-life story that influenced the present. When Debra Newell met John Meehan for dinner at a candlelit California restaurant in October 2014 adhering to a string of uninspiring first dates, something felt various. He was handsome, charismatic, achieved, and seemed genuinely interested in her. After four failed marriages, she felt perhaps she had actually discovered "the real point."

But over the subsequent weeks and months, Meehan gradually revealed himself to be the exceptionally opposite: A pathological liar with an ugly temper, a criminal past, and also a long history of conning, manipulating, and abmaking use of women. In a six-part story for The Los Angeles Times and the accompanying podcast Dirty John, reporter Christopher Goffard chronicles exactly how Debra"s dream man ended up being a waking nightmare for her and also her household.

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If you haven"t read Goffard"s articles or heard the podcast yet, rectify that automatically. Seriously. Do it now. With that disclaimer in mind, here’s a chronological timeline summarizing the key events in the horrifying true saga behind Dirty John.

March 8, 1984

Cindi Newell is murdered by her husband also of 13 years.

Twenty years before the events of Dirty John, Debra Newell"s sister Cindi was swarm and killed by her husband, Billy Vickers. The couple remained in the procedure of separating, and the murder took location in the kitchen of the home they had simply offered in Laguna Niguel, The golden state. Billy swarm Cindi in the ago of the head at close variety, then swarm himself in the stomach and referred to as emergency services.

At trial, Cindi’s mommy Arlane Hart testified in Billy’s defense, explaining that she loved him and also did not believe he had actually been in his appropriate mind once he shot and killed her daughter. Per The LA Times, prosecutor Thomas Avdeef was stunned by Arlane’s testimony, which he taken as paint Cindi in an unfavorable light. “They threw her under the bus,” Avdeef said, referring to Arlane and other family members members that gave testimony. “I don’t know the dynamics of the family members. I could never before understand also that. Why say bad things around the victim?”

The jury acquitted Billy of murder, but deadlocked on the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which Billy eventually pleaded guilty to in exadjust for a five-year sentence. He was released in 1986 after serving less than 3 years in prikid.

Cindi’s fatality, as you’d mean, had actually a prouncovered impact on her younger sister Debra. “It was the factor Debra hated weapons,” Goffard writes. “It was the factor she refprovided to have actually one around, lengthy after human being started warning her that she required one."

November 1990

John Meehan marries his first wife.

John married nurse Tonia Sells at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Dayton, Ohio. At the time, she was 25 and he was 31, though he told her that he was 26. Namong John"s household attended the wedding; he described that his parents were addicts and he didn’t want them to destroy the wedding. The couple had two daughters, and Tonia helped put John through nursing school.

July-September 2000

Tonia discovers the truth about John.

After ten years of marriage, John told Tonia he wanted a divorce. Tonia tracked dvery own John’s mom, Dolores, though he had always forbidden Tonia from contacting her. Dolores revealed that John lied about his birthday and his full birth name, and also that he had a drug charge against him in California.

After looking the Ohio house they mutual, Tonia found John’s covert supply of surgical anesthetic drugs, which she knew he had actually no factor to possess exterior the hospital. She indeveloped the police, that began an investigation of John in September 2000.


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January 2002

Another investigation into John starts.

Dennis Luken, an investigator for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio, started looking into John after hospital employees reported seeing him bring a gun into the operating room and steal Demerol he must have been administering to a patient. Per The LA Times, Luken later on called John “the the majority of devious, dangerous, deceptive perchild I ever met.”

April 2002

John is stripped of his license to work as a nurse anesthetist.

Police searched his residence and also discovered a loaded gun and 45 empty containers for 6 different prescription medications, per The Dayton Daily News.

June 2002

After attempting to evade arremainder, John goes to prikid.

John pleaded guilty to felony drug theft, however rather than surrendering to authorities, he fled the state and also checked right into a hotel in Michigan, where police discovered him unaware and also surrounded by drug vials. Here’s how Goffard explains what came next:

The ambulance was rushing him to the hospital once he unbuckled his restraints, ordered the drug kit and jumped into the road. He fled into a nearby J.C. Penney, scrambled aheight a cargo elevator and also right into the shaft, and also kicked a cop in the challenge. They finally handcuffed him as soon as he tumbresulted in the ground, extended in grease, and also knocked himself unaware.

John was sentenced to up to six years in prichild in Michigan for resisting arrest and also possession of drugs. He served 17 months and also was released in 2004.

February 2014

John begins his rein of terror against other women.

John pleaded guilty to stalking a Laguna Beach woman, whom he met in the hospital when she was reextending from brain surgery. He presented himself as her anesthesiologist, and they dated for a duration, until she came to be uncomfortable with his suggestions that she transfer money right into his financial institution account “to hide it from her estranged husband." When she finished their relationship, he sent her threatening messeras and also intimate photos of her to her family members.

October 2014

John meets Debra Newell.

John was released from prison on October 8 after serving time for violating a restraining order. Two days later on, he met interior designer Debra Newell on an over-50s dating site.

John and Debra visited a restaurant in Irvine, California, for their initially date. He told her he"d offered as an anesthesiologist in Iraq and also spent a year through Doctors Without Borders. “He tfinished to have whatever on my checklist that I was trying to find,” Debra told Fox5. “I chosen that he was a medical professional, that he had succeeded helping human being, and then as soon as he said he had actually been to Iraq, Doctors Without Borders, that impressed me also.”

Their relationship occurred quickly, and also Debra was “swept off her feet because he kbrand-new what to say. Everypoint was so calculated.” She was willing to overlook some strange quirks—John wore his medical scrubs almost everywhere, even to formal occasions, and declared to have actually no money because all of his earnings saw his children—yet her daughters were instantly suspicious.

“I told my mother she’d better gain this creep out of the home or I don’t setup on living with her,” Debra’s older daughter Jacquelyn shelp on the Dirty John podcast. Debra’s younger daughter Terra was likewise uncomfortable with John, however initially was much less vocal.


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November 2014

Tensions rise with the Newells as Debra and also John relocate in together.

Debra and also John relocated into a residence together on Balboa Island in Newport Beach. The residence was in Debra’s name alone bereason John didn’t want his name on the lease. The anxiety in between John and Debra’s daughters involved a head the day before Thanksgiving, once Terra discovered the couple were living together and faced her mommy. Goffard explains this incident:

Here came John, instantly transcreated by rage. Why was Terra snooping with his stuff? Why was she trying to steal Debra from him? Did she realize that youngsters have to be smacked for this? Terra screamed at her mother: “How might you let this male talk to me choose this?!”Terra left, badly shaken, through the sickening feeling that her mommy was picking John over her.

December 2014

John and Debra marry.

In spite of the recurring family stress, Debra and also John married in Las Vegas after less than 2 months of dating, while Debra was there on a service expedition. The ceremony took area at a courthome, and no guests were invited.

March 2015

Debra discovers the truth around John.

Debra’s nephew Shad—Cindi’s son—referred to as her to raise involves about John, revealing that he had actually offered time in jail and had actually lied about being an anesthesiologist.

Though Debra acted uncame to to Shad, she privately started looking with John"s files, and also discovered proof of his lengthy history of seducing, conning and also harassing women. Per Goffard:

From 2005 to 2014 — from around the moment he gained out of prison in Michigan for drug theft to the moment he met Debra Newell in California—he had actually seduced, swindled and terrorized multiple womales, many of whom he had actually met on dating sites while posing as a doctor, court documents proved.By the moment they married in December 2014, three sepaprice women roughly Southern The golden state had actually standing restraining orders against him; in current years, at least 3 others had actually asked for them.

Debra uncovered printouts from websites on which women mutual information about dangerous men, with scores of warnings around John: “Do not let this man into your life,” one comment shelp, while one more called him a con artist and a “timeless psychoroute." She additionally discovered that he had actually a nickname, dating earlier to his brief time at regulation school: Dirty John.

“He was basically this stselection, lone-wolf man that did all kinds of scandalous-type points, and also it wasn’t simply with womales,” a previous classmate of John’s, Kevin Horan, told The LA Times. “‘That male, you can’t trust him for nothing. He’s rotten height to bottom.”

Disturbed, Debra moved out of the Balboa Island residence, taking benefit of John’s absence while he was in hospital for ago surgery.

June 2015

Debra and also John reconcile.

After months of messperiods and phone calls in which John begged Debra to take him back and told her he necessary her, the couple acquired earlier together. He had an explanation for everything, Debra described on the Dirty John podcast. “He always had actually a story. He told me that he had actually lied bereason he assumed he’d lose me, that he feels so lucky that I’m such a foroffering perchild, I’m the love of this life, that I’ve made him a better perkid.” Debra and also John relocated into a brand-new apartment in Irvine.

March 2016

Debra cuts John out of her life.

After a year and also 3 months of marital relationship, Debra’s still has actually suspicions, and is increasingly uncomfortable with John’s habits and her estrangement from her own family members. The stress between Jacquelyn and also John had actually worsened, as Goffard writes:

He didn’t even desire her seeing her youngsters, particularly Jacquelyn, that had been so vocal in her contempt for him. One day he caught Debra sneaking away to view her and sassist he’d throw Jacquelyn in the ocean if it occurred again.

Debra reached her breaking suggest in March, and also fibrought about annul the marital relationship in April. John, currently living in Nevada, started sending her threatening messages, demanding money and promising to ruin her. She requested a restraining order, however an Oarray County judge denied the request. There was no unavoidable risk, they ruled, bereason John lived in an additional state and also had never before physically hequipped her. She reduced John off and also quit taking his calls and also messperiods.

June 11, 2016

John steals Debra"s vehicle in an attempt to destroy it.

Debra’s Jaguar disappeared from its parking spot in front of her office in Irvine, and surveillance footage confirmed John stealing it. The car was later on uncovered a block amethod, soaked in gasoline and also with mild fire damage—John had tried and also faicaused collection it entirely alight.

August 20, 2016

John attacks Terra exterior her apartment building.

Jacquelyn dubbed Terra to warn her that John was in town; the previous evening she"d watched him waiting external her (Jacquelyn’s) apartment structure in Irvine. That evening, Terra reverted residence from work-related and also parked her auto in the lot outside her Newport Beach apartment structure. As she got out of the vehicle, John approached her from behind and also assaulted her with a knife.

"He was trying to press me into the vehicle," Terra told Dateline. "I tried to acquire amethod from him, I was screaming, and he put his hand also over my mouth and I bit as difficult as I could."

“It bore no resemblance to a fair fight,” Goffard noted: John was 6’2”, and though he had actually shed significant weight over recent weeks, he was still a lot bigger than Terra. But as she and also John wrestled on the ground, Terra was able to protect herself in part thanks to the hefty rain boots she was wearing, which had a thick treview. Throughout the fight, she kicked the knife out of John’s hand, then managed to grab it herself and also stab him 13 times, including when via the eye.

“I just began stabbing him. I began to press him off of me and also then I obtained him ideal below and I likewise obtained the last one in his eye and also the last one I sort of did offer a second believed. I was choose ‘I do not desire him to get earlier up, I don"t want him to try to hurt me again. If he gets ago up he"s gonna kill me,” Terra told Fox5.

After a neighbor wrapped Terra’s wound in a beach towel, Terra called Debra and also damaged the news: “I’m really, really sorry. I think I eliminated your husband also.” But John wasn’t yet dead. Paramedics administered CPR and his pulse returned.

August 24, 2016

John Meehan dies.

John Meehan passed away in the hospital at 57, 4 days after his fight via Terra. After he was asserted brain dead, his sister Karen made the decision to take him off life support. His body was cremated and no memorial organization was organized.

See more: A Little Messed Up But We Re Alright Poster, A Little Messed Up, But We'Re All Alright T

Debra told Fox5 that her nightmarish endure via John motivated her to try and assist victims of domestic abuse. “There are women that are most likely scared to fatality to leave,” she shelp. “ do not view any kind of other way of getting out of the relationship and also I want to have actually a voice for them.”


Emma DibdinEmma Dibdin is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles that writes around society, mental wellness, and also true crime.
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