What Happened To Terra Newell? Her Life Before & After John Meehan Tragedy

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  • Post last modified:August 4, 2023
What Happened To Terra Newell? Her Life Before & After John Meehan Tragedy
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Terra Newell is a survivor of a true crime, life coach, blogger, self-defense mentor, and advocate for trauma victims. She is better known as the one who killed the infamous con artist John Meehan otherwise famous among the people as the Dirty John. Meehan had a relationship with Terra’s mother, Debra Newell, whom he abused and manipulated psychologically and financially.

John and Terra’s mother were married from 2014 to 2016. When alive John was notorious for lying to middle-aged women telling them he was a doctor including the businesswoman, Debra. As mentioned, Terra’s mother was just another victim of John’s mischievous ploy.

He also created conflicts between Debra, her daughters, and her family. Meehan was also the guy upon whom the LA Times serialized investigation turned podcast series turned Bravo TV show, Dirty John was based.

The show majorly contains a dramatization of John’s relationship with Terra’s mother and how he was embezzling her, his disgust towards Debra’s daughters including Terra, how he died, and the aftermath.

Terra, the youngest daughter of Debra Newell, now is also often referred to as the woman who killed her stepdad. Get to know what had actually happened other than the TV show dramatization and the media narratives in addition to an exclusive wiki about Terra Newell; her childhood, her career, her life after the incident, and beyond.

Terra Newell Is A Native Of Orange County, CA 

Terra grew up in Orange County, California. Growing up, Terra’s mother, Debra was an interior designer while her biological father worked in the building industry.

Newell’s parents divorced when she was seven years old. Her folks later shared her custody. Terra also had a lot of nannies since her mother Debra worked a lot.

The podcast runner also grew up Christian as her mother would take her and her sisters to church every Sunday. LA Times reports, that as a child, Terra was the most quietest and docile member of her family. Terra was also nonconfrontational; her family often described her as “sweet.”

Newell is one of the four daughters of Debra, Terra’s sisters are Jacquelin, Kim, and Nicole, the eldest. She allegedly has also a brother; presumably a half-sibling.

The Real Story On How John Ended Up Being Terra’s Family Member And Ultimately Her Attacker

Terra’s mother, Debra had met Meehan on a dating website and the two married rather quickly in 2014. From the beginning, however, Debra’s daughters including Terra were wary of their mother’s new partner. Debra though had thought Terra and Jacqueline would accept him once they get to know him fully.

Terra Newell's mom Debra Newell with her former husband and the late con artist, John Meehan. 
Terra Newell’s mother, Debra Newell with her ex-husband and the late con artist John Michael Meehan.

It was Terra who first got suspicious of John. She tells how she often wondered why someone as good as John was still single when she first saw him. John also barely made eye contact with Terra and often cut her questions short.

She also questioned why John as a doctor had no cars. Terra had further seen John hitting, threatening, and screaming at her mother. The now self-defense mentor discovered the truth about John a day before Thanksgiving when she found a nursing certificate in John’s name in a closet.

Terra questioned why John would have a nursing degree but instead claimed to be a doctor. Though John had answers to Terra’s every question and not even her mother, Debra supported her. Terra nevertheless had also convinced her family to hire a private investigator to know more about John. They later learned Meehan had gone to jail several times, many women had restraining orders against him, was a heavy drug user, and was also an infamous stalker.

The late con artist and Debra's ex-husband, John Meehan
The late embezzler and Terra’s former stepfather, John Meehan.

After her family told Debra, she and John became an on-and-off couple though later they broke up for good and all in 2016. Following that, John, however, would stalk Debra and even turned to Terra.

After the breakup, Meehan tried to sabotage his ex-wife’s company, lit her car on fire, stalked Terra’s family members, and harassed Debra and his family by stalking some of the family members, and even threatening them.

And on the course, he, one day ended up trying to abduct Debra’s youngest daughter, Terra. However, in self-defense, Terra ended up stabbing John 13 times.

What Really Happened The Day Terra Newell Killed John Meehan?

Often in interviews, Terra has said what really had happened the day she killed John. Just a moment before the incident, the life coach was reportedly in the parking lot on August 20, 2016.

Terra parked her car and opened the door to let her dog Cash out. She had just returned to her apartment building in Newport Beach, California when John attacked her out of nowhere.

The 31 years old says, Meehan grabbed her from behind saying, “Do you remember me?” Promptly after, the six-foot-two-inches tall man tried to stack her into the trunk of his car. Meehan put his hand over her mouth after which Terra bit her as hard as she could. Meanwhile, she also tried to get away from him.

The second daughter of Debra describes just after John grabbed her from behind and as he was forcing her into his trunk, he didn’t look her in the eyes. Of that particular moment, Terra believes because she wasn’t beneficial to Meehan, he was going to kill her anyway.

“I’m pushing him off on me but I’m holding his head because I don’t want him to bite me. And so I push him off of me with holding his head … I thought I don’t want him to wake up and just try to hurt me again because I think he’ll try to kill me again.”

said the youngest daughter of an interior designer. Meehan also attacked Terra in her right arm with the knife he had brought.

Terra Newell Defeated Her Attacker John With The Help Of Her Dog And A Knife

Sometime after Meehan approached Terra with a knife, suddenly the weapon landed in an ice pick position. Terra would be the one to reach the weapon first after which she started wailing it back on Meehan. John then fell on top of the then 25-year-old blonde woman. It was at this point that, Terra’s dog Cash attacked his ankles.

Newell eventually stabbed Meehan 13 times. Terra says the last one was in the eye because she thought that was the softest point of entry and that she also wanted to kill his brain.

“In that moment, I wasn’t really like thinking about how many times I was stabbing him. But the last two to the head, I actually gave those two some thought,”

said the trauma survivor. Newell apparently also screamed at the paramedics telling them to get away from the fatally wounded John because she thought he was still alive and would have killed them as well.

The whole incident apparently lasted 32 seconds.

Life coach Terra Newell at the hospital after she was stabbed in the arm by John Meehan.
Debra Newell’s daughter, Terra at the hospital after she went through John Meehan’s attacking incident on Aug 20, 2016. Instagram

The Orange County native in her interviews has reported that while there were residents from her building watching the whole incident, none tried to intervene as according to Newell, they thought she was going to get killed regardless. Though someone did call 911.

John Meehan died four days after the parking lot incident.

Terra Newell Life After The Attack And How She Is Doing Now? 

After the incident, Terra would be diagnosed with combat post-traumatic stress disorder. Newell reportedly still deals with PTSD. While she tried to get back to normality, Terra wasn’t able to function as usual.

31 years old Orange County native and survivor of a true crime incident Terra Newell with her dog, Cash.
The ex-wife of the late con artist, Debra Newell’s youngest daughter, Terra Newell with her dog, Cash.

Later it was EDMR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in Texas, that helped her cope with what she had been through. The Golden State local reportedly received the EDMR treatment for about six months before returning to California.

Newell says, she though still feels the urge to go to fight or flight mode whenever she feels in danger. Terra says her life since the incident has changed drastically. Later his scam story, his chapter on Debra and her daughter’s life got retellings from sources like the Los Angeles Time, Bravo (series), and also a podcast of the same name.

From left, actor Eric Bana, actress, Connie Britton, Debra Newell, Juno Temple, and Terra
From right, 31 years old Terra Newell, actress, Juno Temple, Debra, actress, Connie Britton, and actor, Eric Bana. Netflix

John, Terra, and her family’s ordeal would also become a hit Netflix limited series by the name, Dirty John starring, Eric Bana as the titular character and Connie Britton as Terra’s mother, Debra. In the series, the Ozark actress, Julia Garner plays the role of Terra. The eight episodes series premiered on the streaming service on Feb 14, 2019.

What Does Newell Do Now? 

Terra now utilizes her past experiences to help others confront their own likewise by-gone incidents while residing in her native Orange County. The ex-EDMR patient is now spreading awareness about gaslighting, manipulation, and relationship red flags.

She also deals with the topic of how to have a proper self-defense technique. Terra also claims herself to be a representative for family members who have survived or going through domestic abuse.

She additionally explains the tips on how to defend oneself in a knife attack that could save their life. The knife attacker survivor likewise helps others to see the red flags and warning signs of someone as mischievous as John.

What’s more, Terra also imparts her experience on how to survive such attacks. Of her now state, the con artist’s victim once said,

“I am so happy I am alive to share this message, to reflect on all the amazing opportunities that have come about from such a traumatic event.”

Terra Newell Now Also Host A Podcast Show

The influencer, Terra further is the host of the podcast, Time Out With Terra which she launched in August 2019. In the meantime, the social media star is also a blogger who runs her own website which she started in Jan 2019.

Newell furthermore occasionally explains and dismisses the critiques on how it is always not unhealthy and exploitative to commoditize real-life survivors’ stories.

Newell Is A Dog Lover And A Professional Groomer

Terra also studied to become a professional dog groomer in Las Vegas. For that, she had gone to ABC dog grooming school.

Newell worked at a dog kennel, Tima canines in Newport beach. It reportedly was her first job ever. The Aussies lover says she worked at the dog kennel for so long that she knew all the rules of a service dog, ESA, and a therapy dog.

Newell Instagram Says She Might Be Single For Now 

Terra may be currently single or at least that is what her socials tell, be it Instagram, Tiktok, or her Facebook. However, back when John was still alive and had started to make entry into Debra’s life, Newell was dating somebody.

In fact, when her mother was still dating Meehan, Terra was living in Las Vegas with her boyfriend, Jimmy. And even Jimmy, too, had met John.

Terra Newell with her then boyfriend, Jimmy.
Self-defense mentor and a true crime survivor, Terra Newell with her ex-boyfriend, Jimmy.

They apparently were still girlfriend and boyfriend a year before Terra would kill John. To say more, right after she had stabbed John with the knife, her former partner was the first person she had called.

It was also because her ex-boyfriend was a fan of the Aussies that she has now one.

Did Terra Become Rich After The Dirty John Incident; What Is Her Net Worth? 

While she may not have wished to become famous through a near-death incident, upon surviving, Terra has managed to become a national story. And although financial winnings of Newell are yet to be sized up, looking at her Instagram lifestyle one may have a hard time saying that she is just your average paycheck-to-paycheck employee.

Albeit unfortunate, there was money coming in for Newell’s family from different avenues; especially those closely related to the case.

There’s also some couple of $100,000 thanks to Terra’s life rights deal with the LA Times story. Though the only thing that is in the mist is the how-much of her net worth.

Terra Newell Other Facts

  • Terra is crime TV shows obsessive; the former dog kennel worker has often stated how shows like Burn Notice, Dexter, and the Walking Dead taught her the knife skills she needed to defend herself from her former stepfather. In fact, she apparently has rewatched The Walking Dead several times. For her, the show served as a survival guide rather than just some form of entertainment.
  • Newell is also a fan of country music, animals, and hiking.
  • Some of Terra’s other favorite shows are The Bachelor, and Veronica Mars, among others.


Narayan Shankar, who goes by the name David, is a seasoned writer and editor, who has a passion for covering the entertainment industry. He has years of experience writing content, especially in the entertainment niche. He is currently an editor and writer for celebsuburb.com along with other websites under our organization named Pandora Group of Companies.