The Terrifying True Story That Inspired Bravo's 'Dirty John'

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The true story of one woman’s seemingly perfect relationship with a man that took a wrong turn is now the subject of Bravo’s new hit series “Dirty John," starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana.

When divorcee Debra Newell met John Meehan online, she thought he was the perfect man. “I liked everything that was in his profile, along with how he looked,” Newell told Inside Edition. “He was very charming, very funny.” 

Meehan told the interior designer from Newport Beach, California, that he was an anesthesiologist, who had just returned from volunteering in Iraq, she said.

“He swept me off my feet,” Newell added.

After just two months of dating, she said Meehan convinced her to marry him at a Las Vegas courthouse while she was on a work trip.

But though everything appeared dandy, Newell's daughter, Terra, was growing increasingly suspicious.

“Why is he saying he is an anesthesiologist but he is just playing video games all day?” Terra said she wondered at the time.

Soon after, Newell said her new husband's real nature started emerging. He became unhinged, she said, and even wished at one point that Terra was dead.

Newell realized she needed to disentangle herself from Meehan.

“I finally left him when there were too many threats and I was starting to see the real John," Newell recalled. "This man was nothing that I thought I had married.”

She decided to hire a private investigator to check into Meehan’s background. The information uncovered was startling. Known by the nickname "Dirty John," he had preyed on dozens of lonely women looking for love.

Tonia Bales, Meehan's first wife, told Inside Edition he had just earned his license in anesthesiology when they married. She then discovered what he was doing stealing narcotics used in surgery and warned him that if he didn’t stop she would report him. 

“He started threatening me,” she recalled. “He was going to kill me, harm me or have someone take care of it for him.” 

Newell and her daughter started fearing for their lives.

“I had knives taped around the house and in spaces where he wouldn't find them,” Terra said. 

Their worst fears turned out to be true.

For what happened next, check out the critically acclaimed Los Angeles Times podcast or watch "Dirty John," which airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo. Newell and her daughters also participated in a documentary, "Dirty John, The Dirty Truth," which will air on Oxygen in January.

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