'Dirty John' Story Of Abuse, Deceit Retold As Cautionary Tale



A scene from the Bravo series "Dirty John."

A Henderson businesswoman is again recounting the deceit, manipulation, abuse, and death her family endured at the hands of “Dirty John” Meehan.

Interior designer Debra Newell met Meehan via an Internet dating site and the two married within months. He claimed to be an anesthesiologist who’d served in Iraq, but Newell soon discovered he lied about his career and had a long history of swindling women.

The marriage devolved into Newell fearing her by-then-estranged husband and becoming isolated from her family. The saga ended when Newell’s daughter killed Meehan when he tried to abduct her in August 2016.

After being told in news coverage, on Dateline, in the "Dirty John" podcast, and in a Bravo TV series, Newell is again recounting her experiences, this time in a book she is writing that will caution others.

“I'm getting into the nitty-gritty about who John really was,” she told State of Nevada. “I'm also bringing up red flags. What a sociopath is; psychopath is; narcissist, coercive control, love bombing. It really gets into all the terms of what he did to me, number one, and then what to look out for.”

She said she also hopes to offer some insight into the difficulties of exiting an abusive relationship.

“A lot of people didn't understand why I didn't walk away,” Newell said, “but you cannot walk away without planning it out. Or you can be murdered, you know.”

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The writing process also proved to be a journey that allowed Newell to learn more about herself.

“You really have to start from the beginning, and you have to heal,” she said. “You have to understand who you are, why you do certain things. Why you think certain ways.”

Newell, who has become an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, says her story struck a chord.

“At one point, I was getting up to 600 emails, text messages a day, mainly from other women telling their story, asking for help,” she said.

“They were thanking me for having a voice for him. They were ashamed of what they've gone through. And a lot of women, believe it or not, are successful, intelligent women that are just wrapped up in wanting to find love.”


Debra Newell, author, chronicles abusive relationship

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