Online daters beware: This story will send shivers down your spine.
Dirty John, a six-part podcast from the Los Angeles Times and journalist Christopher Goffard, tells the riveting story of how one woman and her family were affected by a diabolical man she met from an online dating site.
The podcast moves like a mystery thriller. One aspect of the story opens the door to another; you know something terrible is going to happen, but you’ll never predict what and when.
It’s a chilling warning to anyone looking for love online that sometimes, that “great guy” is really your worst nightmare.
In 2014, Debra Newell, a 59-year-old, four-time divorcee was lonely and worried she might never find love. When she met John Meehan on a dating website, she was smitten. He seemed to be the real thing: a doctor who shared her Christian values and was interested in her more than talking about himself.
But Newell’s four grown children saw a different side to Meehan. “I don’t like him. There’s something about him,” said Newell’s youngest daughter, Terra upon meeting him for the first time.
Five weeks after meeting each other, Newell and Meehan secretly married.
Over the next few months, eerie red flags began to emerge. Meehan bragged about his family relations to the Mafia, and he claimed to be a doctor but hardly had any clothes and played video games all day. Financially, his newfound life with Newell was entirely at her expense.
Wanting to know more about who this guy was, some of Newell’s children hired a private investigator to look into his background.
What came up was all too disturbing. He was a felon who had seduced, swindled and terrorized multiple women, many of whom he had met on online dating sites. He had drug charges, gun charges, and restraining orders. One detective called him “a ticking bomb, capable of unpredictable violence.”
“Dirty John,” she learned, was a nickname given to him by former classmates.
At this point, Newell started to fear for her life and confronted him about his deception. Meehan responded by asking for forgiveness, and managed to stay in his new wife’s life.
In the series of events that follow, it becomes clear how easy it is for someone fall under the spell of a con artist—even after learning about this person’s terrifying background.
To find out how the story ends, you’ll have to listen to the podcast. You won’t believe the outcome.
But we will discuss something crucial about this story: that both instinct and love (or, perceived love) are powerful feelings. While Newell believed she had found love, her children believed she had found a monster.
When her nephew asked her, “What if he isn’t who he says he is?” she replied with: “Even if it were true, I wouldn’t care because I love him.”
To see a family member under the spell of a sociopath can only be understated as a disturbing and frightening situation.
If you believe that someone you care about is dating a toxic, shady or otherwise creepy person, there are a couple of things you can do to try to help:
1. Tell This Person That Ignoring Red Flags Is Potentially Dangerous
The story of Dirty John should serve as a reminder of how important it is to spot dating red flags and then not ignore them.
Newell’s family tried to warn her, but she insisted that Meehan made her feel loved.
Keep reminding this person that the way someone makes you feel isn’t enough to be in a relationship with him or her.
Most serial killers are charming, too.
2. Trust Your Instinct
Had Newell listened to the advice of her children early on, she might have never put herself or her family in living hell for over a year.
Most of her children’s instincts were spot on from the moment they met him. Intuition is a powerful tool that exists to help us navigate life. Listen to it.
If your instinct is telling you that your friend or family member might be involved in a dangerous situation, consider going to the police who may be able to help.
Newell decided to marry a man she didn’t even know. The consequences of doing that left her family with scars that will last a lifetime.