Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard is interviewed by Keith Morrison on Dateline NBC. Goffard’s writing about sociopath John Meehan became a six-episode podcast called “Dirty John” (one of Meehan’s nicknames; he was known to talk dirty to his victims). The story starts with Debra Newell, a 59-year-old four-time divorcee who met a charming, handsome 55-year-old named John Meehan online in October 2014. Meehan told her he was an anesthesiologist in Iraq and volunteered with Doctors Without Borders. Debra’s adult children did not like or trust John, who unbeknownst to Debra had a history of arrests and stints in jail. But their opinions of him didn’t stop Debra from marrying him in Vegas after just two months of dating. Sixteen months later Debra filed for an annulment but John didn’t make it easy for her or her family. In August 2016, Meehan attacked Debra’s daughter Terra with a knife in a parking lot. Terra fought back and stabbed Meehan to death.
Debra Newell wasn’t the first woman to regret meeting and dating Meehan. According to Goffard he heard from many women after the podcast first aired. Many listeners don’t understand how women can fall for guys like Meehan. Goffard tries to explain by recalling a story one of the exes told him. She was on a plane with Meehan, near a single mother who was struggling to carry her baby and her suitcase. When the mother looked at Meehan, she handed him her baby — a stranger. Goffard says “And that’s the spell this guy’s looks cast. He looked so authoritative and wholesome and responsible and disarming that you would hand him your child.” Goffard hopes Dirty John is a cautionary tale. Dateline airs Fridays at 10pm on NBC.