Three years ago, Terra Newell stabbed to death her stepfather John Meehan after the abusive man - who was nicknamed "Dirty John" for his history of domestic violence - attacked her in the parking lot of his building. The story of the sociopath and swindler is so chilling that it was brought to the small screen in Bravo's Dirty John series. Terra, now 27, spoke to PEOPLE exclusively about this traumatic experience.
Terra's mother, Debra Newell, met John on a dating page and fell blindly in love with him, getting married shortly after. The man was not who he appeared to be and his mother at first did not see his faults. The close family did not trust John Meehan and hired a private investigator who discovered negative data from her past. The man had been arrested multiple times and several women had placed restraining orders against him, and he also had a history of drug use.
When Terra's mother found out, she left her husband, but returned to him months later. According to the young woman, her stepfather was a manipulator who convinced her mother that the "John Meehan" that the private investigator had found was someone else, not him. His mother finally discovered the truth and left him, but John went out of control, setting the car on fire. from his mother, obsessively chasing the family and threatening them. All of this culminated in the death of John at the hands of his stepdaughter, who stabbed him 13 times trying to defend himself against him.
Terra, who was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), went to therapy to heal from this emotional trauma and the family shared their story so that others who knew individuals like Dirty John were not fooled. The young woman is now launching her own Time Out With Terra podcast and helps raise awareness of PTSD and the importance of taking self-defense classes.
"Although I am still struggling with PTSD, I have healed a lot," he told PEOPLE. "People have to know that bad things can happen and you can't let those things stop you or bring you down. The most important thing I have learned is that you have to get ahead and stay positive. I am happy to be alive to be able to share this message.”
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