Dirty John has just dropped on Netflix and the show expertly depicts how just how much of a master manipulator and conman that the titular character was. Those who’ve watched the show will notice that at the end of each episode there is a disclaimer that states that due to the nature of the series, some of the events have been changed slightly from real life.
But just how accurate is the season as a whole and is it’s terrifying finale what really went down in real life?
Well throughout this article, I’ll breaking down everything that you need to know about the real-life John Meehan as well as some of the things that the show didn’t cover. There will be heavy spoilers in regards to the tv counterpart, so if you haven’t seen the entire run then I highly suggest that you turn off now.
But for everyone else, I’m Deffinition and welcome to the channel where I watch it so you don’t have to!
The Real Life Dirty John
John Meehan was taught the art of the con from an early age by his father who ran a casino in San Jose. In his youth he was given lessons in how to lie and to decieve people and John quickly became an expert at this that easily manipulated women due to his good looks and charm.
Meehan attended Prospect High School in California and was described as a Magnet for girls due to his athletic ability and personal side. This was matched by his intelligence and his sisters stated that it was at this point in his life that he realised that his gifts provided shortcuts that would allow him to ultimately control people and achieve his goals.
In the show, Eric Bana who plays the character, manages to influence a lot of people early on and even manages to convince Debra’s mother that he is a good man purely down to his looks.
This eventually lead John to be under the impression that somehow the rules didn’t apply to him and that he was above the law. He began selling cocaine and at one point even put broken glass in fast food and sued the company to get money from the settlement.
John Meehan’s First Wife
Eventually, Meehan met and married his first wife Tonia Sells. In the show, we see this play out pretty similar to real life with Tonia helping the character through Nursing School to the point that he was able to be employed by a hospital.
Even though she pretty much made his career, after 10 years John filed for divorce, leaving her and their two children behind. Trouble quickly followed when Sells discovered a box of stolen anesthetics in her home and after contacting the police she was harassed hourly by John and recieved numerous death threats.
Meehan didn’t stop there though and he continued stealing from patients that he was pretending to medicate. We see this in the show too when John fails to medicate a patient properly for his own devices. This, of course, caused him to lose his job and in 2002 he pled guilty to felony drug theft. However, instead of facing up to the charges, Meehan went on the run and tried to evade the law.
John On The Run
Eventually the Police caught him barely conscious and high from one of the drug kits that he had stolen from the hospital but his escape attempts didn’t stop there. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Meehan uncuffed himself and tried to escape but he was apprehended and sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Within hours of his release from Jail, Meehan created a match.com profile and began hunting for vulnerable, rich female victims.
His Bio read:
A DOCTOR with dark hair, hazel-green eyes and a charming smile.
John quickly picked up attention due to his picture and description and this lead to his and Debra’s first date.
The Story Of John And Debra
Similar to the show, Debra was just out of her fourth divorce and was eager to find someone for her. On the surface, John seemed like a dream come true. They quickly began exchanging messages and by the third date, Debra was besotted by him. John lied to her telling her that he had just returned from Iraq after working as a Doctor out there but everything about him seemed genuine until the cracks started to show.
Debra’s daughters felt like something was off about him and stated that he used to always wear scrubs, even to dinner parties, which gave away that perhaps he didn’t have the bank account that he claimed to.
Debra’s daughter Jacquelyn used to comment on how he would often stare at her handbags and expensive clothing lustfully. These concerns were too raised by Debra’s other daughter Terra, who wondered why this high paid doctor didn’t have a car, apartment or anything of value.
John Meehan’s Past
After the two dug deeper into his past they quickly unearthed his time in jail as well as the charges out against him for harassing women. They discovered that John had posed as a doctor and then extorted women for money and it seemed like he had his sights set on Debra.
After being informed of this, Debra quickly split up with John but as women from his past knew, getting rid of him was easier said than done.
John eventually stole her car and set it alight and threatened to release nude photos online that she had sent him.
He seemed to be on every corner that the family went and it became clear that he was stalking them.
This all came to a head one night when John attempted to abduct Terra. He pulled out a knife and slashed her but Terra fought back bravely, managing to bite down on his hand as hard as she could. As the two tussled, Terra managed to grab a hold of the knife that John had been carrying and she repeatedly stabbed him over and over again.
Police arrived at the scene and found him to be barely breathing. In his car they discovered what was described as a kidnap kit. This contained duct tape, drugs and a set of kitchen knives. It’s clear what his intentions were and no charges were pressed against Terra who was clearly acting in self defense.
John was taken to hospital but four days after the attack his life support was turned off. He was given no funeral and was put in a cremation box.
But the horror of his legacy didn’t stop there and his deeds became widespread after the release of the podcast, Dirty John, which is what the show is based upon. The podcast is hosted by Christopher Goffard and details the life of John Meehan as well as his manipulation of Debra and final attack on Terra. The podcast was downloaded over 10 million times within six weeks of release and is definitely worth checking out if you like true crime stories.
If you’ve been following my website then you’ll know that I absolutely love true crime shows like this and Dirty John didn’t disappoint. Whilst it didn’t live up to the more fictional tales of shows like You, I still found it fascinating just to see how expertly John managed to infiltrate the character’s lives and slowly tear them apart.
Eric Bana does an outstanding job as the titular character and he expertly handles the charm that John obviously had. Bana is also able to switch on a dime and when you start to see his sinister side unleashed, you quickly understand that this is a man more than capable of pulling off both facets of John’s personality.
Similar to this is Connie Britton who plays Debra. She beautifully handles the vulnerable, close to sixty lonely women that would fall for his charms and the show becomes about her empowerment which I think is a smart take on it.
I had some gripes with the two daughters, especially Juno Temple who plays Veronica. I found her to be quite bratty and in that first episode, I was on John’s side at least. She wasn’t really that likable so I found it difficult to go along with her.
Overall though I found it to be an enjoyable and horrifying show that I definitely recommend.
So, what were your thoughts on the show and do you have any extra information on John that I missed out? Comment below and let me know!