“Dirty John” is a riveting new Bravo show, based on the true story of a successful businesswoman who joined a dating site, setting off a chain of events that eventually resulted in a murder.
Debra Newell, then 59, met John Meehan on an over-50s dating site. She had been divorced four times and ran a prosperous interior design firm. On the dating site, Meehan framed himself as a handsome anesthesiologist who owned multiple homes.
But that soon proved to not be the case.
“Best thing that will ever happen to you,” he texted Newell after their first date, according to the Los Angeles Times report.
Journalist Christopher Goffard spent a whole year investigating Meehan’s case for a podcast called “Dirty John,” and investigative project for the LA Times and he explains that Newell’s new boyfriend had a filthy past and a dirty nickname.
Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead
By their third date, Meehan told Newell he was madly in love with her and that he wanted to marry her. Within two months they were, in fact, married. Meanwhile, Newell knew nothing about her husband’s shady past.
Turns out, he wasn’t a doctor at all. Worse than that, he had a history of stalking, harassing and terrorizing women. He was known to peruse dating sites like Match.com and PlentyOfFish to lure victims, according to episode four of the “Dirty John” podcast.
“On dates, he would wear medical scrubs and pretend to be a doctor,” Goffard detailed. “He would induce women to send him intimate photos of himself which he then used to blackmail them. He sent them to their families, he sent them to their kids’ school.”
He became such a frequent predator that women warned each other not to date Meehan on a site called Datingpsychos.com, which had devoted multiple pages to him. “He conned me out of money, “ one of the warnings said. “… He is very persuasive. Emotionally needy… slick liar…”
We won’t give away all of the show, but let’s just say the Newell and Meehan’s relationship ended in bloodshed.
The story of “Dirty John” is not the only disturbing one that began on a dating site. Here are four other matches to make you swear off online dating forever.
Suspected “Tinder Serial Killer”
In July of this year, police in New York arrested a man suspected of killing a nurse named Samantha Stewart. who he met on Tinder, and since his arrest, there has been an inquiry into whether or not Danueal Drayton could be a serial killer. Drayton allegedly talked about killing at least five others, according to the Associated Press.
Drayton allegedly met Stewart on Tinder and then used her credit card to buy a plane ticket to California, where he is accused of attacking another woman in North Hollywood, a woman he also allegedly met on Tinder, according to WLNY.
He’s also accused of trying to strangle a woman in a North Hollywood apartment, who believes she narrowly escaped a horrible fate after meeting Drayton over the dating app Plenty of Fish.
“He was a cool guy...He seemed nice,” Zynea Barney said earlier this year, recalling his first impression of Drayton. “He was a good listener. I don’t know if he was pretending, but he would act like he was interested in what I do for a living.”
Eventually, though, she claimed he began stalking her and even tried to strangle her.
He is awaiting trial for the woman he attacked in California. For that case, he has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, forcible rape, false imprisonment by violence and sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to the New York Daily News. It’s not year clear if he will be extradited back to New York to face trial for the murder of Stewart.
Dismemberment of Sydney Loofe
Sydney Loofe vanished after a Tinder date in November 2017 and her dismembered body was found about a month later. Then-roommates Aubrey Trail, 52, and Bailey Boswell, 24, allegedly killed her before dumping her remains in rural Nebraska, according to the Fremont Tribune in Fremont, Nebraska. Loofe had matched with Boswell on Tinder and they had met up at least once before. The night of Loofe’s death was supposed to be another date, according to the Huffington Post.
Prosecutors accuse Trail of strangling Loofe and Boswell of helping Trail cut up Loofe's body and stuff her remains into various trash bags. Both have been charged with first-degree murder and unlawful disposal of human remains. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty for both Trail and Boswell.
A College Student Held Hostage
A 20-year-old college student in Kansas decided to meet up for a second time with a man she knew from Tinder in April 2016. Her date picked her up at her sorority house on a Tuesday, but the young woman didn’t come back until the next Monday, badly beaten. The student had two black eyes, a swollen head, and bruises all over her body.
She claimed that her Tinder date, 30-year-old Shane Steven Allen, held her against her will at his trailer and beat her for six days, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. Allegedly, he accused her of flirting with one of his friends who had came over earlier in the night and punched her in her right eye. According to the arrest affidavit cited by the Lawrence Journal-World, "Allen stated she could not go home until the swelling around her eyes reduced." That wasn’t her only injury: One of the woman’s ankles was so swollen from the beating it prevented her from fleeing, according to the Lawrence Journal-World report. Allen continued to hurt her throughout the week. He also choked her once until she passed out and pressed his knee to her throat as she was on the floor. At one point, Allen put a knife to his own throat and threatened to kill himself and the student. Police backed up her account and reported seeing "obvious bruising to her throat and jaw line, extending to her ears."
In order to be taken home, she had to promise Allen she wouldn’t call the police. He was convicted of aggravated battery in connection with that attack.
Police are investigating a suspicious death of a Missouri woman who met Allen online before she suffered a severe head injury, according to the University Daily Kansan. Sabrina Frock, 27, underwent surgery for those injuries but didn’t survive, according to a Lawrence Journal-World report. No one is in custody or has been charged in connection with Frock’s death yet.
The “Craigslist Killer”
Philip Markoff, 24, a former medical student, was accused of killing a masseuse and aspiring actor he met through Craigslist: Julissa Brisman of New York City, who was found shot to death in a Boston hotel, according to the Associated Press. She had been bludgeoned with a gun before being shot three times at a close range, according to the New York Daily News. However, that wasn’t his only crime: In addition, Markoff was accused of tying up a Las Vegas woman also advertising herself as a masseuse on Craigslist and robbing her, as well as attacking a stripper and holding her at gunpoint, the Associated Press reported. All three crimes took place in the same week in April 2009 in Boston. Markoff allegedly met all three women through advertisements for erotic services posted on Craigslist, thus his eventual nickname: “The Craigslist Killer.”
Inside Markoff’s apartment, police found four pairs of women's underwear wrapped inside socks, hidden in a box spring.
He killed himself on what would have been his first wedding anniversary. (The wedding was canceled after his arrest.) He wrote his ex-fiancée's name, "Megan," in blood on his cell wall before he died by suicide in 2010.
Searching for the best true crime podcasts? Subscribe to Martinis & Murder and join hosts Daryn Carp and John Thrasher as they chat about creepy crimes and unsolved mysteries... while sipping on killer drinks from our murderous mixologist Matt the Bartender. Each episode will focus on a new true crime, with all the gory details, and a cocktail recipe to get you through.