“Dirty John” was created by Wondery and the Los Angeles Times in 2017, and the podcast followed the web of lies and manipulation by John Meehan as he began a relationship with businesswoman Debra Newell after meeting online. It was adapted into a Bravo TV series starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana.
“The First Wife,” from Aliza Rosen’s AYR Media and Audible, follows Meehan’s first wife Tonia Bales as she re-investigates her relationship to the serial predator and uncovers new insights into Meehan’s life. The podcast also unveils never-before-released recordings of Meehan, long-held secrets from his former friends and acquaintances, as well as accounts from colleagues and close family members. Meehan and Bales’ now-adult daughters also reflect on their tumultuous childhood, the unraveling of their parents’ marriage and their experiences as the daughters of the infamous “Dirty John” Meehan.
“While the ‘Dirty John’ saga has become a cultural sensation, captivating and horrifying people across the globe, Tonia’s story has been widely overlooked,” said Rosen. “She was the first victim to marry this master manipulator and is, arguably, the person who knew him best… or thought she did. Tonia is a survivor, and I can’t wait for listeners to hear and learn from her story.”
Accompanying each episode of “The First Wife” are bonus installments, hosted by criminal behavioral analyst and international crime expert Laura Richards. These feature conversations with Bales that dive deeper into the episode’s events, Meehan’s destructive behavior and Bale’s struggle to protect herself and her loved ones.
“What happened to me is more common than people may think. I hope that listeners learn from my experience and are inspired to trust their gut instincts, be cautious with new relationships and recognize the red flags,” said Bales.
“The First Wife” is narrated by Rachel Louise Snyder, investigative journalist for The New Yorker and award-winning author of “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us.” The podcast was created and executive produced by Rosen, Bales and Richards, and is the second project released through AYR Media’s overall deal with Audible. In June, AYR and Audible launched their first podcast “Bitter Blood: Kasem vs. Kasem,” an original anthology docuseries revealing the inside story behind the lawsuit and elder abuse allegations of radio legend Casey Kasem.
Listen to the trailer below.