True crime is a fairly popular genre nowadays. There is something about the genre that speaks to a lot of people. If you have never seen a true crime documentary or podcast, you’re missing out. The more common true crime documentary often involve people getting murdered. While it may be morbid, a lot of people watch that kind of stuff. There are channels dedicated to that type of stuff. And people watch it. Often times, true crime stories, often released through a podcast, get turned into a movie or television series. In recent years, there have been a lot of television adaptations made from true crime stories. One of them is Dirty John.
One of the figures in the entire story is Debra Newell, an interior designer based in California. It’s sort of weird to write about a person based on that one thing. Unfortunately, when I tried to research about her for this post, most of the search results related to this specific period in her life. If I had written an article that disregarded that period in her life, it would have been a few sentences that said that she was an interior designer and she has children.
There isn’t really much about Debra Newell that I could find aside from that. Apparently, her sister was murdered by her husband. The gist of it is that they were in the process of separating but something just snapped and Debra’s sister Cindi was killed. The weird thing about it is that their mother testified in defense of the husband. That moment had a long-lasting effect on Debra. She didn’t want to be around firearms.
Despite the trauma that she has regarding her older sister’s death, Debra has managed to live a fairly okay life. Like I said in a previous paragraph, she manages her own interior design firm and she has two daughters. Her love life kind of left a lot to be desired, in a way. She had went through four failed marriages before she had met John Meehan. I guess the trauma from having her sister be killed by the man that she married manifests itself in different ways. John, at the point of meeting Debra, had gotten out from prison after serving about two 17 months incarcerated. Debra was still trying to find love when she matched with John on a dating site. Both of them were in there 50s so the pool of eligible people was fairly small.
The two hit it off in their first date together. But I guess that’s how John operates. He knows how to find the right hook to get women to be attracted to him. He lied to her about serving as an anesthesiologist in Iraq and spending a year with Doctors Without Borders. Like I said, John knows what he’s doing. It was through John’s performance that they became a couple. Debra was willing to look the other with some of his quirks because she was so enamored by him. But her daughters weren’t really that into their relationship.
Soon after, Debra and John got married in Vegas during a work trip she had. Nobody was invited to the ceremony. Fast forward a few months, Debra’s nephew Shad, who is Cindi’s son, called her to express concern that John might not be who he says he is. She did her own research on John soon after. She found a lot of stuff about him including a message board of sorts of women warning other people about dangerous men. It was through that message board that she found out about the nickname Dirty John. Around that time, John was hospitalized for a back surgery. But Debra had already left the house that they shared.
Somehow, they managed to get back together. But Debra still had suspicions about him. About a year or so into their marriage, Debra decided to file for an annulment. That’s when John started to harass her like he did his other victims. It came to a point where John stole Debra’s car from her office parking spot in order to destroy. Fortunately, it didn’t really went that well. In August, John tried to kidnap Debra’s daughter Terra. Terra managed to defend herself by stabbing John. He was then hospitalized after that and died soon after.
Once the Dirty John was released, Debra was kind of pushed into the spotlight. Eventually, she would write her own memoir detailing her experience of that relationship. She did a lot of appearances to promote the book and the documentary featuring her. In one of the interviews she did, she mentioned that she was now living in Las Vegas. Her net worth is probably around $2,000,000. Currently, she has an advocacy to help people who’ve experience trauma from abusive relationships.
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