John Meehan pinned his stepdaughter, Terra Newell, to the ground in her sister's driveway, but he dropped his knife, which she grabbed and then used to stab him 13 times.
"I heard him gasp and fall on me when I started to make contact," Newell told Fox News Digital in an exclusive video interview. "I held his head like a zombie so he wouldn't bite me, and then the last two stab wounds I actually gave thought to.
"I stabbed him in his forehead, and the last (stab) was through his eye, which is the softest point of entry to the brain which was the one that made him brain-damaged ... I pushed him off of me. I tossed the knife away from his body, so he couldn't grab it, and then studied a way to get away from him."
Several neighbors in the sunny southern California city of Irvine rushed to Newell's aid, but none of them knew that day — Aug. 20, 2016 — was the end of a manipulative conman's multi-state reign of terror.
Meehan, nicknamed "Dirty John," was the focus of Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard's true-crime podcast after his extensive coverage of the case, which was later depicted in documentaries and a Netflix series.
After the attack, Terra said, "I just remember saying, ‘My name is Terra. That was a stepdad. He tried to kill me. My name is Terra. That was my stepdad. He tried to kill me.’ And I kept repeating it over and over."
Meehan was a former anesthesiologist nurse who preyed on women that he felt were easy targets, which included Newell's mother, Debra Newell, who he met on a 50s-and-over dating site in October 2014.
That was shortly after a stint in jail for violating a restraining order against another woman.
When he met Debra, Meehan told her he was an anesthesiologist who worked in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders, among other lies, to sweep her off her feet.
The relationship didn't feel right to Terra and her sister, and Terra had a heated confrontation before Thanksgiving 2014, when she found out Meehan and her mom were living together.
Despite her daughters' objections, Debra and Meehan had a Las Vegas wedding in December 2014 without any guests and had three months of wedded bliss before a family member alerted Debra to Meehan's past criminal history.
She left him in March 2015, got back together in June 2015 until she finally left Meehan for good in March 2016 and filed for an annulment in April 2016.
That's when Meehan unraveled, and the situation turned violent, Terra said.
"Whenever a narcissist, a sociopath or a psychopath loses their control over someone, that's when you're most prone to being attacked or killed," Terra said. "People like John don't like losing control. That means that they lost like a sense of their self. And so, for him, he literally lost his control.
"My mom left him for the second time. He wasn't getting any more money from her. She was starting to expose this person. And when you expose these type of people, that's what really pisses them off."
The night before he attacked Terra, Meehan showed up at her mom's house but was chased down by her sister, Jacquelyn, and her friend. Meehan jumped back into his car and sped away.
Terra said Meehan also sent messages threatening to kill her mom, bury her body in the backyard and then he "was going to add me and my sister."
The next day, he tried to kill Terra.
"He grabbed me by the waist. He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ And I looked up at him and didn't say anything because I immediately tried to run away from him," Terra said.
But she couldn't get away. She suffered several blows to her ribs she originally thought were punches.
"So I brought my purse up to protect my heart right before he got me, and I just was getting punched, so I thought. He covered my mouth. I hit him as hard as I could. I bit him. I screamed, I was yelling and I just tried to run away and fight back," Terra said.
She had a service dog that was barking and biting at Meehan during the driveway brawl.
"I fell back, and I fell on my right shoulder. And then he was on top of me. That's when I realized I was actually being stabbed by him because he concealed the knife in a Del Taco bag," she said.
The blade grazed her cheek, and she later discovered gashes on her arm and defensive wounds.
The knife fell by her side during the struggle. She remembers grabbing it and stabbing Meehan. She dealt the 13th and final blow through his eye and got away.
Terra, now 31, has learned to cope with the trauma and severe panic attacks while putting herself back together, physically and mentally.
In a 2019 interview with Fox News, Terra said she has "healed so much."
"People need to know that bad things can happen, and you should never let those things hold you back or get you down. The most important thing I have learned is to keep going and stay positive," Terra 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 and to celebrate another year of living life to the fullest."
Nearly four years after that interview, she said, there are still times when a chain of events could trigger a spiral, like dogs barking, hateful comments on social media or a TV scene in which a survivor fends off an attack.
"All those little triggers add up, and then I'm in a bad place," she said.
But she's in a better place now and working with other survivors and survivors' families.