It's Not Easy Leaving a Man Even Strangers Are Terrified Of

Part 5 in the 'Dirty John' series from the 'Los Angeles Times'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2017 2:50 PM CDT
When She Decided to Leave for Good, 'Dirty John' Got Scary
John Meehan   (Michigan Department of Corrections)

"Scariest man I've met in my 70 years," attorney John Dzialo tells the Los Angeles Times in Part 5 of its six-part series on "Dirty John" Meehan, a conman who married a California woman desperate to find love. Dzialo was hired—and quickly fired—by Meehan to get legal revenge on his list of enemies, and the attorney immediately found himself concerned about Debra Newell. Newell had discovered the truth about Meehan but decided to forgive him, fearing both the prospect of a fifth divorce and Meehan's wrath. But by their one-year anniversary in December 2015, it was all an act. She was done. “You don’t look at me the same way,” Meehan told her. “I know you’re going to leave me.” Newell did just that in March 2016 and filed for an annulment in April.

And that's when Dirty John—who had already harassed Newell's daughter Jacquelyn, threatening to throw her into the ocean, telling her to kill herself, sending her dirty messages—got really scary. He used his intimate knowledge of Newell's history, family, religion, and insecurities to attack her. He demanded $7,000 a month to live on, posted naked photos of her on her nephew's Facebook page, claimed to be dying of cancer, and threatened to "ruin" her family and interior design business. Newell started wearing disguises and living out of motels. A judge refused her request for a restraining order, but it seems Meehan had decided not to go after Newell directly. Part 5 of the Dirty John saga—read the full thing here—ends on a foreboding note, with Meehan apparently setting his sights on Newell's daughter Terra. (More Longform stories.)

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