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Crime News

Woman Who Killed Con Man "Dirty John" Meehan Redefines Day He Attacked Her

John Meehan's stepdaughter Terra Newell now has a happy occasion to celebrate on the anniversary of the day he stabbed her and she fought back, killing him. 

By Grace Jidoun
Dirty John, The Dirty Truth: Debra Newell's Advice for Other Women

The stepdaughter of con man "Dirty John" Meehan — who fatally stabbed him after he attacked her with a knife — has redefined the traumatic anniversary of the incident, infusing a harrowing day with a celebration of love.

On August 20, 2016, Terra Newell came close to being murdered when she was attacked by her stepfather, Meehan, in a Newport Beach, California parking lot. She was eventually able to get ahold of his knife while fighting back and stabbed him 13 times, killing him in self-defense. The terrifying case of the charismatic con man inspired the popular Dirty John podcast, and was later chronicled in an Oxygen documentary titled Dirty John: The Dirty Truth, and a dramatized limited series on Bravo.

RELATED: How Terra Newell's Obsession With 'The Walking Dead' Saved Her From 'Dirty John'

Traumatic anniversaries can haunt people for years, but Terra has brought light to that dark day, as this August 20 also marked the one-year anniversary of her romantic relationship with Collier Landry, who was thrust into the national spotlight as a child after his dad killed his mom. 

Terra Newell Talks Life After "Dirty John"

When Landry was 12, he testified in the murder trial of his father, John Boyle, helping to send him to prison for 20 years to life in the murder of Landry’s mother, Noreen Boyle. She died of suffocation and blunt force injury to her head, and was buried in a crypt-like space underneath their Ohio home's basement floor.

Like Newell, Landry’s experience was turned into a documentary, A Murder in Mansfield. Other similarities link the couple’s  histories. Landry’s father, John, appeared to others as charming and intelligent, just like Meehan. Meehan falsely represented himself as a doctor, and Landry’s father was a prominent osteopath in Ohio.

Newell and Landry's unique connection began in March 2022 when Landry invited her to speak on his podcast, Moving Past Trauma. Though just friends at that point, according to People, the two spent time together in person at a true crime meetup, and they eventually started their own podcast, The Survivor Squad, bonding over their shared desire to spotlight the struggles of PTSD and long-term survival. Their friendship slowly blossomed into a romantic relationship, and now they empower fellow crime survivors by giving them a public forum to share their stories.

RELATED: 7 Things That Made Debra Newell’s Daughters Suspicious Of 'Dirty John'

“The moment I met Collier in person, I just felt like I could share anything with him," Newell told People. "I think I shared my deepest, darkest secrets the first night we got together. I'm just very appreciative of Collier because... I feel that no one has known me the way that Collier has known me.”

Newell's mom, Debra Newell, who was married to Meehan, has used her public platform to call attention to his abusive tactics.  Describing Meehan's approach as “love bombing,” Debra said during a panel discussion with the Los Angeles City Attorney in 2019, “I think in the beginning he was studying me to such a degree that he knew what to ask, what to say, what to do.”

“At first you think, ‘Oh, this person is really in love with me,’ but then he would isolate me,” she said during the discussion. “I’ve always been close to my children, and they’ve been part of my everyday communication and so on, and he started saying you need to cut them off, they are too dependent on you.”

RELATED: Why Debra Newell Stayed With 'Dirty John': The Insidious Form Of Abuse We Rarely Talk About

Meehan doted excessively on Debra and glossed over his criminal past to lure her in. It turned out he was a grifter and ex-con, spending most of 2014 in jail. According to the Los Angeles Times, he had pleaded guilty to stalking an ex-girlfriend, burglary, and felony firearm possession, and after being released was picked up again for violating a restraining order against another woman he had threatened. Shortly after getting out of jail the second time, he met and married Debra, ultimately attacking her daughter in the Newport Beach parking lot.

This year, on their first anniversary, the couple told People that they had planned to attend the wedding of a mutual friend who worked on the Dirty John podcast and who had encouraged the love connection between them.

“I have to use my trauma ... as my empowerment, because what I went through, there's not a lot of people that survive that,” Newell told People.

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