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The True Story of 'Dirty John'

Cosmopolitan.com 2018-10-12 01:16:00
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Bravo is truly the gift that keeps on giving. On top of the Real Housewives franchise, this blessed network is gifting us a scripted anthology series based on the wildly popular 2017 true crime podcast Dirty John, starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana. We! Are! Not! Worthy!

The show premieres on Sunday, November 25, and you're definitely gonna want to brush up on your facts before tuning in. In a (terrifying) nutshell, Dirty John is based on the research of Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard, who chronicled how, as Bravo puts it, the "whirlwind romance" between Debra Newell and a con-man named John Meehan "spiraled into a frightening web of deception, denial and mental terror that nearly tore a family apart." Intrigued? You have NO idea what's coming.

The Podcast

Christopher Goffard spent a year (!) reporting the story; he felt compelled to investigate the debacle because "something about John Meehan chilled me in a way nobody else has." Shudder.

Get started listening here:


The Title


According to Goffard, "Dirty John" (along with "Filthy John") was a nickname given to John Meehan by a classmate at University of Dayton:

His debauchery spawned the nickname Dirty John, though once bestowed it seemed to describe a lot of his behavior. Like the way he took money for roofing jobs he didn’t complete. Like the way he rented his housemate a deathtrap truck with no brakes, and claimed not to know. Like the way he used fake names on the credit cards that filled the mailbox, a swindle he would boast about.

The Story


Note: This Summary Contains SPOILERS.

If you don't want to be surprised by any of the twists and turns of the Bravo show, then I suggest you cancel your plans for today and check out Christopher Goffard's fantastic reporting. But if you don't have that kind of time, I'll try to give you the TL;DR version.

John Meehan and Debra Newell met in October 2014 after connecting on a dating website. He seduced her with his pedigree, claiming to have worked as an anesthesiologist in Iraq as part of Doctors Without Borders. Before long, they moved into a $6,500/month Newport Beach home together—much to the concern of Debra's daughters. The couple got married after just two months.

As Debra's daughters became more and more suspicious of John, they discovered that their mom's new man had previously been in jail and had abandoned his last relationship—sordid details that John himself had never disclosed. Meanwhile, Debra started having her own doubts, and eventually learned that John hadn't worked in Iraq as an anesthesiologist, but rather, he'd been a nurse anesthetist "who became hooked on surgical painkillers and lost his career." As Goffard puts it:

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From 2005 to 2014—from about the time he got out of prison in Michigan for drug theft to the time he met Debra Newell in California—he had seduced, swindled and terrorized multiple women, many of whom he had met on dating sites while posing as a doctor, court records showed.

Debra understandably freaked out, and after a brief reconciliation (Debra and John actually ended up moving into yet another apartment together), she began to fear John and fully wanted out. Finally, in March 2016, she left him. John reacted with harassment and threats, going so far as to post nude photos of Debra to her nephew's Facebook. She fully cut him off after he stole her car and lit it on fire in June. (I know this sounds crazy—it is! But it's also true!)

Ultimately (and this is where the REAL spoiler alert comes in) John showed up with a knife and attacked Debra's daughter Terra in the parking lot of her apartment building. They wrestled to the ground in broad daylight until Terra managed to get the knife and stab John repeatedly. He died in the hospital four days later on August 24, 2016.

DAMN.

Again, for a full run-down of this fascinating story, you're going to want to start here:


The Bravo Series Cast


So, we know Debra is being played by Connie Britton and Dirty John is being played by Eric Bana, but get this: Gilmore Girls' very own Keiko Agena (aka Lane!!!) is playing Debra’s coworker Nancy. Debra's daughters are being played by Julia Garner (who nabbed the role of Terra) and Juno Temple.

FYI, Bravo already renewed Dirty John for a second season, but it'll have a completely new cast and plot.


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