OUR FEMINIST TRUE-CRIME FANS TALK DIRTY JOHN
Dirty John is a 6 part podcast that will make you wonder WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ERR’BODY?! If you love hot messes and true crimes, this show is the trash story you’re going to want in your ear! It includes multiple marriages, a gigolo, FAMILY DRAMA DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES STYLE, and a heroine you’ll never see coming.
The podcast opens with a man reading a report on a victim that has been stabbed over 13 times in Newport Beach, CA. It quickly moves into introducing you to the two main characters of the story, Debra Newell and her charismatic lover, John Meehan. Debra describes how attractive John is. And GIRL! He’s not my type, but he is a beefcake with a six pack and a good enough face. Like, if he bought me drinks in a bar, and played some air hockey with me, and would be willing to pay for my Lyft home, I think I would have definitely let him touch my bean in the darkness of a gin hazed cloud of horny.
If you haven’t listened to the show, go RIGHT NOW and listen. We got problems if you don’t because there is NO WAY to discuss this podcast without telling you everything. IT’S ALL SPOILERS, SO TAKE YOUR UPPITY “NO-SPOILERS” BUTTS OUT OF HERE.
Joining me to roundtable-da-fuck outta Dirty John is Onicia Muller, a former Caribbean crime reporter turned entertainment writer. She quit the crime game when she became more concerned with writing her Law and Order spec script rather than finding actual killers. Betsy Thompson is a member of my true crime fan club, Lady Dicks, where we discuss current and past killers and crimes that make us go WHOA. When we retire, we’re going to work on solving that damn Jon Benet case!
Episode 1: The Real Thing, or as we like to call it, ALL THE RED FLAGS, DEB
ELIZABETH: We are introduced to Debra Newell, her daughter Jacquelyn (who lives with her), her younger daughter Terra, and John Meehan, a man Debra has just met online and starts dating. She’s been through several bad marriages, and at 59, she’s feeling insecure and hopes she’ll meet someone to love. John claims to be a doctor, is handsome, into Deb, and moves in a few months after meeting her against the wishes of her daughters. CAN WE TALK ABOUT ALL THE RED FLAGS JUST IN THE FIRST EPISODE???
ONICIA: Thirteen stab wounds—one landing in the eye. You know this gonna be a good one. My girl Deb says she never had issues hooking a man; says one even dropped on the hood of a car begging for a date. Red flag: old people using the internet unsupervised. WHAHAHAHA. (Me sorry *continues laughing*)
Red flag: he looked like “a frat guy that never grew up.” Deb, if you don't know by now to stay away from the Alpha-Kappa-Frappuccino losers, I can't help you. I need to pause this dragging to give Deb her props. She went from being a divorcee with children to a boss running her own business.
But the biggest red flag was John’s poorly veiled humble brag. My mom says those who constantly name drop or stress about caring for the designer whatever, don’t actually have money. Whenever I see someone constantly listing their accomplishments—like showing up to a benefit in surgical scrubs (I’m watching you John Meehan) then you ain’t no doctor. Best case you’re bad at planning your life. I don't like people who are about confusion. Seriously, you telling me homeboy couldn't pack a suit and then change clothes at the event? Swipe left!
BETSY: Girrrrrrrrrl! Yes, this episode should definitely be called “Allllllll the Red Flags, Deb” because there were so many. He creeped me out from the get-go telling her she was “soooo his type” and rubbing her back when they first met—lil’ too touchy-feelie for me right out the gate.
The fact that they made it back to her house after their first date and he didn’t want to leave was a huge one. It made her so uncomfortable that she had to kick him out?! I was rolling my eyes so hard when she gave him another chance after that creep-out.
When she would take him to black tie events that he rolled up to wearing raggedy scrubs? Seriously?!
The final “OMG, WOMAN, WHYYYY ARE YOU WASTING YOUR TIME WITH THIS LOSER” was when all of her children got bad vibes from him and told her to get rid of the creep and what does she do instead? Decides to move in with the guy after only dating for 6 weeks! WTF is wrong with this woman?!
ELIZABETH: I’m just saying that if my grown daughter cries and runs out of a room because I’m with my man, then he is DONE. Nobody has time for that drama.
Episode 2: Newlyweds, or as we like to call it, WAKE UP, GIRL, HERE THE RECEIPTS
ELIZABETH: Deb has driven her daughter out of her house over this BULLSHIT romance and now is moving into a new space with Dirty J. One day, the two of them come home and DAMN! WHO IS IN THE HOUSE, BUT SOME OTHER DAMN BITCH and she had the nerve to shower IN HER HOUSE? No, ma’am. Once, I walked into my ex-husband’s house, and some chick answered the door in her underwear and a t-shirt. I was like, “Who the fuck are you and where’s your pants?” I only cared because I share custody and I was like, “Nah, not in front of my kids in THEIR house.” Long story short, that heaux ran out of my ex’s house crying and screaming about how I was a terrible person. Proudest moment of my life.
This is also when Shad Vickers, Deb’s nephew, is like, “Auntie, you gotta be kidding me, I GOT RECEIPTS.” Dirty J had a JAIL address, turns out to be a drug addict, and jokingly said he could “take [Terra] out from a thousand yards” TO DEB. I’d smack his mouth.
ONICIA: Yasss, you better call out these bold and brazen homewreckers. Let me tell you something right now, right now! If there's one thing fake ass Catfish has taught me is that the internet don't lie. If somebody comes with accusations, you need to have a counter defense.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, please prove to me you weren’t in jail by showing us your bank statements, utility bills, and online activity. Come on now. We need to see some random snapshots of you at social events. Everybody is online. Back in like 2000, I found photos of my dad with loose women on Google. My island had only gotten internet at most 5 years before. It was the low-resolution dial up days. Anything Google pulls up with your name is you unless proven otherwise.
God bless, Shad. Deb need to put him in the will ASAP! Jacquelyn is a rider. Deb had an entire squad but she out here believing Mr. Wornout Scrubs.
BETSY: Why didn’t Debra charge that woman for trespassing?! That’s scary AF!
Badass-I’m-not-taking-your-shit Jacquelyn putting the tracker on his car? Brilliant. Hiring a PI to follow this loser? Yas Kween. What they were discovering? All his lies and coverups - saying that he got paid cash for doing “freelance anesthesiologist work” um….I’m not in the medical field, but that sounds super shady to me.
When her nephew did all the investigative legwork and confronted Debra about the multiple addresses including the jail? This is absolutely the time when she needs to say, “Boy, bye.”
ELIZABETH: Why wasn’t this enough? Your kids are putting trackers on his car, he never brings home a check, AND he has a JAIL address. And who was that lady?! I get that Deb had a few failed marriages and didn’t want this to be another, but all these things scream, “GTFO and cut your losses, mama.”
Episode 3: Filthy, or as we like to call it, SHIT BAG JOHN
ELIZABETH: We get introduced to the real John at this point. Right out of Crimson Peak, John’s ghost from the past start showing up and saying, “DUDE, YOU ALWAYS BEEN A DICK.”
ONICIA: Things got kind of real for me in this episode. The ‘wheel of dysfunction’ is seriously tough to escape. Coming from a family with divorce, I felt bad that John had it rough at an early age. It took leaving my home before I felt safe enough to get therapy and heal. That said, at any time after 25 years, John could have gotten help. I don’t get people who value infamy, dysfunction, scamming, and stealing.
I know that adoption and orphanhood is a thing, but for me to marry someone, I need a relative, social working, local plumber, ANYBODY REALLY to vouch for the past 5 - 10 years. Marriage is supposed to last a lifetime, so if you don’t have not one relationship lasting longer than 5 years—which is enough time to earn a Bachelor's degree—then you ain't ready for marriage. You need to go get a plant, a pet, a friend, or something to show that you have a caring nurturing nature.
BETSY: When this episode started out with tales of his threats to Debra, I knew it was going to get insane. This guy’s behavior was bad enough in the previous episodes, so to finally hear about his past? This guy is legit a psychopath.
As Onicia said, if you are getting married, don’t you want to know about your partner’s past from another person? Especially with all the red flags flapping in the wind? Yes, something is def up with Debra for marrying this dude after a couple months, especially after how her children felt about him. But to not meet his family or any of his friends? A co-worker even??? This woman is a smart lady. She owns a very successful business and has loads of money, investments, etc. and she doesn’t do her homework on someone who she’s about to marry? Debra, I can’t with you.
ELIZABETH: It’s very perplexing that she lacked all common sense. What happened to her to be so trusting? I mean how do you come out of so many marriages without feeling that the world is all shit? Deb, girl, you needed to marry a therapist for real.
Episode 4: Forgiveness, or as we like to call it, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
ELIZABETH: WHAT IS WRONG WITH ALL THE LADIES IN THIS FAMILY? This episode was the one that fascinated me the most. What is revealed is that Deb’s sister, Cindi, was murdered in a domestic abuse situation. We find out that Deb’s mom, Arlane, forgave her son-in-law and now travels around the world talking about it. WHUT? If it were me, HEAR ME NOW, I’m driving a screwdriver through a mofo’s neck.
ONICIA: I want to rename this episode “Deb! Act like you in danger, girl!” Deb finally broke free and had to switch around her entire life all because of some bad dick. Dickmatization is a real malady; insurers need to cover it.
People are so afraid of divorce and failing at relationships that we lie to ourselves about what the real is. The accounts from some of John's past victims are so chilling. I moved from being entertained to feeling sick. Lord, help me never ever to be a situation.
This is also the episode where I had fight with Deb. After all the truth was out, after finally breaking away this. heaux. went. back. to. John! No self-esteem is the worst thing in the world! Desperation makes you do silly things. Don’t get me started on Arlane. Deb’s sister died from a domestic abuse situation!!! Get your life together!
BETSY: OMG. I just had to take a deep breath before I started discussing this. I was so mad at these women! Debra and her mother, WTF?! First, Debra goes back to John. WHAT?! Are you kidding me? I don’t care what he’s saying. He threatened her! She had all of that evidence from the private detective. She read through all those documents about his criminal past and saw with her own eyes what he did and what he was capable of. The PI told her this guy was a bad dude and to stay far away from him. And she went back to him. She. Went. Back. To. Him. At this point, I would have told her, “When he murders you, it’s on you, girl.”
OK, Arlane. Your daughter was murdered by her husband and you still forgive and love him? You are most likely why your daughter is so f’ed up with her relationships with men. Sure, as a Christian or whatever, you can forgive; but this is murder. This evil man killed your daughter and you testified at his trial that you forgive him and still love him? This caused his sentence to be so light that he was out of jail in the blink of an eye. Not only did you not give your daughter and her son justice, but you just allowed this monster the freedom to abuse and kill again. Shame on you!
ELIZABETH: It makes you wonder what is going on in the minds of these women. I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS! What did Deb’s other children think about her actions? Why weren’t they interviewed? What did Deb think about Arlane’s actions? What about Deb’s dad? TELL ME MORE.
Episode 5: Escape, or as we like to call it, GET IT TOGETHER, DEB!
ELIZABETH: Now, it’s a year and a half after they get married and it’s still a hot mess. Deb is still not right. She’s still living with him, but at this point, she doesn’t trust him, isn’t talking to her kids, is hiding money from him, while still hoping the marriage can be salvaged. She is in some crazy trance. His dick was definitely some kind of alien mind scrambler.
ONICIA: I can't believe Debra sat through that BS legal consultation where John tried to exonerate himself. If he don't get he musty, raggedy, fake medical scrubs wearing butt out of my face—
‘Naive’ ain’t the word to describe Deb. How is this the same woman who found herself pregnant and divorced but eventually built up to a company successful enough to have employees? You can't be this simple and be a boss at business.
Deb, John’s behavior is why we need to advocate for people to be okay with being single and with escaping toxic relationships. It would be so easy to mock Deb for having so many failed marriages under her belt. However, domestic abuse is serious. If they don’t treat you right, GET OUT!
Kudos to Jacquelyn and her petty Google image searches. I’m so disappointed that Deb allowed this monster to disrespect her children. Most roommate leases are 1 year. Whenever I had a bad roommate, I’d begin my apartment hunt ASAP. I don’t understand how Deb stayed with John for 15 months!
BETSY: This is nuts. Can you imagine life on a day to day basis in this life? It must have been so incredibly stressful. She must have (should have?) been in constant fear. Either way, Debra will always be a mystery to me. I need an episode on her past. Why did she have so many failed marriages? Tell me more about these previous husbands.
When the lawyer they introduced in this episode said that he’d been practicing law for 40 years and was terrified of Dirty John? Yikes! Dude starts bringing a shotgun to work because he’s afraid of Filthy John.
Once again, John goes crazy and starts to threaten her. He knows all the buttons to push. Her failed marriages and that she’s not a good Christian. He even goes on Yelp to leave a bad review of her business. Lol, yeah, ok, John. She FINALLY decides to leave him with the help of our shero and voice of reason, Jacquelyn. I’m relieved she’s out of there, but how long will it last this time before she lets that snake come crawling back?
ELIZABETH: Once again, I want to be sympathetic to Deb but that part of my heart is empty.
Episode 6: Terra, or as we like to call it, A BAD BITCH AND HER SIDEKICK
ELIZABETH: At his point, John has gone completely nuts and tries to be Tony Soprano and start threatening Deb’s “nearest and dearest,” when in reality he’s straight up Jack Torrance. This is also a HUGE payoff for listeners and what separates this podcast from other true crime stories. Dirty J has completely lost his mind and tries to kill Terra by stabbing her (and her dog, Cash) outside of her apartment THROUGH A DEL TACO BAG—A DEL TACO BAG. When a 14-year-old, Skylar, comes and helps saves the day! SHERO! How exciting was this??
ONICIA: Deb needs to count her blessed stars. This heaux is beyond lucky she lived to tell this foolish tale. If the story ended with anyone besides John or Deb losing their lives, I would have been completely distraught. We wouldn’t be discussing this audio drama. In fact, I would be billing Ms. Juana for trauma therapy.
Before we talk about the final showdown between Terra and Dusty John, let’s once again recognize the brave efforts of Shad and Jacquelyn. They really went above and beyond for Deb, but she was legit been stuck on stupid like her mother Arlane.
They say watch out for the quiet ones because they are about action instead of talking. The testimonies of Terra’s character and her role in the entire situation I really don't understand why Deb couldn't see that John was trash. You’re a hot thing; go out there and find somebody else. You can do bad all on your own. Insert all the cliches.
I really hope Deb understands how lucky she is. Terra's remarkable survival could have ended in tragedy. She could have been prosecuted for excessive force or whatever BS charges they put on abuse victims. John was stabbed 13 times—once in his eye—that is excessive. I swear, Deb need to find a chastity belt, put it on, and don't ever take it off—not even to change a tampon!
BETSY: Amen! Wow. This episode was off the hook. I really hope that Debra has finally had her come to Jesus moment after this. Her daughter was nearly killed. Had it not been for Skylar, who knows what would have happened. That lil’ junior lifeguard is the ultimate hero! At 14, I don’t know if I would have been able to have done what she did. She saved Terra’s life.
And Terra, get. It. Girl. Way to fight back. So proud of her for stabbing him instead of running. FINISH HIM!
If I’ve taken anything away from this podcast, it’s that I need to start watching The Walking Dead. Life saving skills can be learned!
ELIZABETH: And I loved how Terra, while being stabbed and doing the stabbing, pulls a full Daenerys and is all, “BRING ME MY DOG.” In retelling her story, I still couldn’t help laughing each time she repeated how all she wanted to do was see Jason Aldean. It was an incredible journey and a well told story. The only thing I wish from this point on is that in a few years we find out that Skylar is the BOSS OF ALL THE LIFEGUARDS. Keep kickin’ ass, Skylar!