Dirty John fans are captivated by John Meehan (Eric Bana). He’s the mysterious man known as Dirty John who captured the heart of Debra Newell (Connie Britton). But her daughters can see right through John’s con-man ways. Terra Newell (Julia Garner) and Veronica Newell (Juno Temple) warned and helped their mom as John turned dangerous.
Dirty John Meehan’s real-life ex-wife speaks
Debra was in love. So much so that she looked past one billion red flags that her children saw waving furiously in the wind. It was a side of Dirty John that his real life daughters were too young to see years ago, before he left their mother Tonia Sells. Sprague Grayden portrays the first wife of Meehan and mother of his two daughters — girls who are active on social media.
John met Sells in 1989, when Tonia was a 25-year-old nursing student. Now known as Tonia Bales Sells, John’s first wife can be seen in the below video, speaking about her tumultuous time with the man who lied throughout their entire marriage. “Filthy John Meehan,” as his roommates called Dirty John back then, said he was 26 when he was really 31. Tonia married John on November 10, 1990. Meehan’s family wasn’t there and he forbid his wife from contacting them. Eerily, the Bravo-portrayed Dirty John wedding video shows one guy’s advice for Tonia: “Run!”
Meehan becomes a drug-addicted threat
As has been seen in already-aired episodes, Sells endured a 10-year marriage to Meehan. Tonia helped John become a nurse anesthetist, not the doctor that Dirty John would claim to be. Their two daughters, Emily and Abigail Meehan, would experience their dad asking their mom for a divorce in 2000. That’s when Dirty John’s estranged wife called his mom and was told, “I always knew you would call me. I always knew that this would happen.”
Meehan’s drug past was revealed, along with his arrest for cocaine sales. Tonia found prescription drugs such as fentanyl in her own home. She realized John was stealing drugs from the hospital. Tonia got in touch with the police and John got fired. Dirty John turned his wrath on his wife in scary voicemails: “When it happens, Tonia, and you see it in your eyes, remember it was me, okay?…Tonia, you enjoy your time left on this earth, okay? Because that’s what it’s gonna come down to.”
John’s ex-wife knew someone would die
Sells didn’t know just how dangerous John would become. She was scared out of her skin after realizing she had been living a lie with John for 12 years. Besides his drug use and thefts, Meehan was engaged in an affair with a Michigan doctor. That woman in Michigan had a daughter with John.
Dirty John’s ex-wife and daughters are even friends with Debra Newell’s daughters. At least one of them. Sells helped bring a big part of the backstory into focus. Tonia noted that a private investigator kept her abreast of his movements. “We’ve been watching him and watching his story and kinda keeping an ear and an eye open with a detective in Ohio for the last 17, 18 years,” she said. “Exactly how it happened is a surprise. But we knew that this was going to end in someone dying. We just didn’t know who.”
Meehan’s daughter thinks John didn’t like women
In the end, Meehan’s daughters are living their best lives, as seen in Instagram photos of the women. Dirty John‘s oldest daughter Emily was only 5 when John asked Tonia for a divorce. Then Meehan disappeared from their lives, most likely the biggest blessing he could give them.
However, Emily wondered if John just didn’t like women. “I wonder if it would’ve been different if I was a son,” Emily said. “It seemed that John didn’t like women.” Despite not liking women, Emily noticed that John used photos of her in frames in his apartment. He also bragged about having kids on his Match.com profile. Emily told the Murderish podcast: “He used me and Abby and his father figure as a way to attract women.”
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