The California mom, whose harrowing story of abuse at the hands of her conman husband inspired hit series Dirty John, has found love again, DailyMailTV can reveal.
Debra Newell married John Meehan after a whirlwind two-month romance – only to discover he had lied about his criminal past and glittering medical career, and was intent on controlling every aspect of her life.
When she finally plucked up the courage to leave, Meehan, 57, launched a months-long stalking campaign that ended with a vicious knife attack on her youngest daughter Terra, then 25.
Although she was stabbed three times during the assault, Terra, who stands at 5’2, weighing 130lbs, managed to wrest the blade from her 6’3, 270lb attacker.
The Newells’ story was later turned into a podcast which inspired Bravo and Netflix hit Dirty John, in which Debra was played by Connie Nielsen and Meehan by Eric Bana.
Three years on from the events that inspired Dirty John, Debra, 64, now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she runs her interior design business, called Ambrosia Home.
Debra Newell, who married infamous John ‘Dirty John’ Meehan, has found love three years after her ex-husband’s death, DailyMailTV can reveal
Debra and John Meehan (pictured together) met on an over-50s dating website in 2014, and five weeks after their first date, they were living together in Newport, California, and were married within two months
The couple’s story inspired a Dirty John podcast, which has been adapted into a Bravo series of the same name starring Connie Britton as Debra and Eric Bana as John
Her daughter Terra, 27, killed Meehan when he attacked her with a knife after Debra broke things off with him when he became possessive and she learned of his dark past
She has also begun dating again and is now in a relationship with a Las Vegas-based antique art dealer whom she met through friends, having sworn off dating websites after meeting Meehan on one.
Her new boyfriend, who asked not to be named due to privacy concerns, has been told about Debra’s past but she says he refused to watch the TV show because ‘he wants to get to know the real me’.
Debra told DailyMailTV: ‘He’s a great guy. I met him in a restaurant and I think during our discussions before I went on a date with him, I told him, ‘have you heard of Dirty John’?
‘He laughs to this day because all he could think of was that it was about cleaning bathrooms. I said ‘no, it’s far from that’!
‘He’s not willing to watch [the show] because there are things in both the podcast and series that aren’t accurate so he wants to get to know the real me, opposed to what the public has seen and saw.
‘But he’s a great guy, I’ve done the background check, I’ve looked for any red flags I can find and so far, it’s going great.’
Next month, the pair will take their first vacation together – traveling to London and then Paris, where Debra’s boyfriend of six weeks is planning to purchase more art to sell.
Daughter Terra, 27, has also met her mom’s new man and told DailyMailTV that although she is ‘still trying to figure him out’, she does like what she has seen so far.
She said: ‘Well I met him recently and I have to say, I’m still trying to figure him out fully because I’m just that type of person but what I’m seeing is that I’m really liking him so far.
‘He’s wanting to engage with me, he’s wanting to hang out with me alone too. He’s such a gentleman – he took my bags to the car, didn’t let me touch a finger and he was struggling.
‘You can see he has a good heart so far.’
Both Debra and Terra say their ordeal at the hands of ‘Dirty John’ Meehan has made them much more wary about dating, and both say they would never go on a dating website ‘because it’s just too dangerous’.
Debra met Meehan via a dating site Our Time which is an over 50’s specialist site and says she believes he planned to target her from the start, using information gleaned from her profile to inveigle himself into her life.
‘I feel that God placed me on this earth to take John out and that was just part of my journey on this earth,’ Debra tells DailyMailTV, saying she’s learned from her mistakes
Debra broke things off with Meehan after learning he lied about being a surgeon and discovering other records that proved Meehan’s story was a carefully crafted fake
She said: ‘I definitely think he researched me. When you go on dating websites, you put a lot there – which I never want anyone to do again because I think that can get you in trouble these days.
‘But I was on there as a successful woman looking for love, that I had it all, I had my family, I had my career, I was a very happy individual but the one thing missing was love.
Terra was stabbed three times by Meehan before she ultimately killed with the same knife
‘And I believe that started him researching.’
She added: ‘I was swept off my feet and I let my heart make the decisions for me but I should definitely have taken the time to get to know the person.
‘But I believe that I was already his victim that he was going to pursue. So I think if I had backed away, he would have continued [to pursue her] no matter what.’
Instead of getting to know Meehan properly, Debra married him just two months after meeting him in October 2014 – despite the misgivings of her four children who all thought he seemed too good to be true.
San Jose, California native Meehan told her that he was a surgeon who was close to his children, a regular churchgoer and a model citizen.
In reality, he had acquired the nickname ‘Dirty’ and ‘Filthy’ John due to his debauched behavior during his time studying law at the University of Dayton in Ohio and his medical career had been as a nurse anesthesiologist.
In April 2002, his license had been removed after he brought a gun into an operating theater in Dayton, Ohio, and stole the Demerol he should have administered to a patient to feed his own addiction.
Although he pleaded guilty to felony drug theft, he fled to Michigan before being tried where he was later captured and handed a six-year sentence for resisting arrest and drug possession.
He also failed to reveal a history of manipulating and abusing women, including his first wife Tonia whom he isolated from friends and family and told he was six years younger than he actually was.
In the 10 years between getting out of jail and meeting Debra, he had swindled scores of women – encouraging them to transfer cash to his accounts and threatening to send intimate photos to their families when they refused.
Court records show that in Southern California alone, three women had taken restraining orders out against him.
The Bravo series has been signed on for a second season. Terra and Debra joined the cast, Eric Bana (left) and Connie Britton (next to Bana), at the world premiere in Hollywood last year
Eric Bana plays John Meehan in the Bravo series. The first season of Dirty John is based on the Los Angeles Times podcast which followed the real life story of the con artist who was nicknamed Dirty John by his friends
Connie Britton plays Debra Newell in the Bravo series which has been renewed for a second season
Early on in their marriage, Meehan insisted on taking control of their finances – ostensibly to help her out – and had begun isolating her from family and friends.
But to besotted Debra, it was all just Meehan showing how much he loved her.
She told DailyMailTV: ‘To this day, I still feel John was a great husband when it came to doing things for me, showing that he loved me.
‘What I didn’t realize was his intentions of what he was trying to do. Little by little, he was trying to isolate me, trying to control me and I didn’t see that.
He’s a great guy, I’ve done the background check, I’ve looked for any red flags I can find and so far, it’s going great.
‘What I saw was that this man seemed very much in love with me, cared about me, wanted me healthy and happy and so on.’
By March 2015, Debra had begun to realize that not all was what it seemed – helped to that conclusion by her nephew Shadwick Vickers who showed her records that proved Meehan’s story was a carefully crafted fake.
Horrified and fearful, she moved out of their home – only to return three months later because, she says, she needed to give him a chance to explain.
But by March 2016, Debra had had enough and the following month, she filed paperwork to annul the marriage.
At that point, Meehan’s behavior turned dangerous – bombarding her with threats and even stealing her car and attempting to set it on fire in June 2016.
Debra went into hiding and, thwarted, Meehan began harassing her family culminating in the vicious knife attack on Terra on August 20, 2016.
According to Debra, hearing that Terra had been hurt was ‘my worst nightmare’ come true. For her husband, who died four days after the altercation in hospital, she had no sympathy.
She said: ‘I got the call from Terra and I was in shock. I had no idea it would be Terra. To get that call is probably the worst nightmare you can go through.
‘The good news is, she was OK. She was not the one that was dead.’
Terra’s Australian Shepherd dog Cash (pictured) helped save her life during the attack by biting Meehan on his leg
Terra, who survived the attack with the help of her Australian Shepherd dog Cash, developed post-traumatic stress disorder but says, despite the horror, she does not regret what she went through.
She told DailyMailTV: ‘I feel that if I wanted to say that John was never here, then I wouldn’t have learned a lot of the lessons I’ve learned.
‘I feel that God placed me on this earth to take John out and that was just part of my journey on this earth.
‘The fact that he’s dead and can’t harm another person, that’s amazing. The fact that so many people are learning from our stories. There’s just so many great things that came out of it.’
Debra says she initially blamed herself for the attack on Terra, believing that if she had never dated Meehan, her daughter would have been safe.
She told DailyMailTV that she spent years trying to figure out what she did wrong and what red flags she missed but never stopped believing that ‘there are good guys out there’.
Debra said: ‘When I look back, all I wanted was to find out what I did wrong and what I’ve done wrong in the past so I didn’t repeat it.
‘I didn’t know if I could figure it out and I think I have. For me, it was really important to know that I’m healthy and can be a great asset to someone and vice versa.’
She also hasn’t been short of offers, telling DailyMailTV that she has had hundreds of men ask her out online and daughters trying to set her up with their dads.
But it wasn’t until she met her new boyfriend six months ago that she finally felt ready to date again, with their first official date happening six weeks ago.
She said: ‘I told him bits and pieces about my story and he feels terrible about what I’ve been through. He’s very concerned and he’s taking it slowly for me because of what I’ve gone through.
‘For him to come around and for me to feel good about it says a lot because I haven’t wanted to date any other guys until now.’
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: KHALEDA RAHMAN