Is The Show Dirty John Based on a True Story?

Dirty John is a show that started up in 2018 and has continued into the present time. For those who are curious, it is a true crime show, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it is based on real people involved in real events. However, interested individuals should know that Dirty John contains both fictionalized events and fictionalized characterizations, which are meant for narrative convenience for the most part but sometimes serve to respect the wishes of those who were involved.

What Is Dirty John Based Upon?

The show Dirty John is centered on a woman named Debra Newell whose search for romance resulted in a very unpleasant ordeal for her as well as her family. For context, she was a very successful businesswomen. However, her romantic relationships had been much less so, as shown by the fact that she had been married and divorced four times by her late 50s. As such, Newell was concerned that she had grown too old to find someone to love, which was when she met the titular individual John Meehan through an over-50 dating website.

There are a lot of horror stories about romantic relationships that can be found out there. Sometimes, the problematic person start out seeming nice but prove to be much more unpleasant with sufficient exposure. Other times, the signs can be seen from the very start. Meehan can be considered an excellent example of the latter. He had a warm manner; he was interested in what Newell had to say; and he complimented Newell’s looks, which was something of a sore point for her because her last boyfriend had stated that she wasn’t his type as a parting shot. However, this impression was ruined because Meehan wanted to go much further on their first date than what she was comfortable with, thus resulting in a fight before he left her penthouse.

Unfortunately, Newell was a very forgiving woman, which explains much about what was to come. For starters, when Meehan called in the very next day to apologize for having overstepped, she was willing to forgive him enough to go on further dates with him. The two proceeded to go very far very fast, though Meehan continued to give off serious warning signs. For example, Newell’s older daughter Jacquelyn suspected that he wasn’t the doctor that he claimed to be, which was bolstered by the covetous way that he looked at Newell’s possessions. Likewise, Newell’s younger daughter Terra was uneasy around him, which was particularly notable because Terra was the sweet one in the family. On top of this, while Newell’s nephew Shad Vickers developed a good first impression of Meehan, he soon became unsettled by a morbid joke that he made about how he could take out Jacquelyn from “a thousand yards.” Despite this, Newell became more and more entangled with Meehan, so much so that the two winded up getting married without the knowledge of Newell’s family.

Unsurprisingly, the unease of Newell’s family caused them to start looking into Meehan. As it turned out, he wasn’t a doctor. Instead, he was an ex-nurse. To be exact, he was an ex-nurse who had lost his career because he had gotten addicted to surgical painkillers. Moreover, Meehan was a serial conman who had seduced and swindled a number of women before Newell, which came hand-in-hand with a seeming obsession for hurting and humiliating people who had stood up to him. This can be seen in how three Californian women had restraining orders against Meehan, which was prompted by behaviors such as threatening to kill a woman if she told the police about him as well as theatening to leak nude pictures of another woman unless she paid him.

Newell’s reaction was what most people would have expected. In short, she left with the help of her family members while he was away at a hospital. Unfortunately, Newell didn’t know the full extent of Meehan’s past at this point in time, which presumably contributed to her decision to see him again when his messages changed from a threatening tone to a more repentant one. Soon enough, Newell was doubting the truth of what her family had uncovered about Meehan because it seemed so different from the man with whom she was interacting. Something that wasn’t helped by the fact that her family’s faith caused them to put a huge emphasis on forgiving those who were seeking to make up for their past sins. In fact, this played an important part in her family’s choice to forgive the husband of Newell’s sister when he shot Newell’s sister in the back of the neck, so much so that they actually defended him at his trial.

In any case, Newell’s daughters as well as nephew were horrified by her decision to go back to Meehan, thus resulting in a breach in Newell’s family. Eventually, Newell decided that she wanted to get out of the marriage, which was prompted by Meehan’s continuing hostility towards her family. When she left with the intention of seeking an end to their marriage, he started showing worse and worse behavior. For example, he threatened to ruin her. Likewise, he insulted her. Soon enough, this escalated to Meehan stealing Newell’s sports car before attempting to burn it, which was foiled when the rolled-up windows caused the fire to go out without oxygen.

The final incident came when Meehan decided to go after Terra with a knife. Fortunately, Meehan’s health problems had caused a considerable amount of physical deterioration on his part, meaning that Terra was able to put up a serious fight even though she had been caught by total surprise. During the struggle, she managed to kick the knife out of his hand, with the result that it landed very close to her right hand. After that, it was a clear case of self-defense.

When the police came, Meehan had no pulse. They managed to get his pulse going again by administering CPR. After which, Meehan was sent to a hospital where his two sisters Donna and Karen met up. There, Newell gave the decision to pull the plug over to Karen, who was a trained nurse. Upon checking the brain scans, Karen gave the go-ahead, thus bringing an end to a conman who had victimized not just Newell and her family but also many others before them. As it turned out, other people would show plenty of interest in the story, which can be seen in how it was turned into a series of articles, then a podcast, and then a show.

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