The Walking Dead helped a woman survive during an attack

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Gallery - Photo Credit: Alan Clarke/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Gallery - Photo Credit: Alan Clarke/AMC /

A California woman used things she learned from watching AMC’s The Walking Dead to save her life when she was viciously attacked by someone she knew.

**Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of real-life violence**

A young woman in California who is an avid fan of The Walking Dead was able to use lessons she learned from the show to save her life when she was brutally attacked by her estranged stepfather and repeatedly stabbed.

Terra Newell credits The Walking Dead with teaching her how to survive. In a riveting 6 part podcast done by the LA Times Terra and her family describe the events that led up to Terra’s attack when her estranged stepfather, John Meehan, attacked her in the parking lot of her apartment building and repeatedly stabbed her.

Terra described how she learned from The Walking Dead to use anything she had, including her teeth, as a weapon. While talking about the things she learned from the show Terra specifically mentioned Rick ripping Claimer Joe’s jugular with his teeth in the season 4 finale, “A”. She also said that watching the show taught her how to properly hold a knife during a struggle so that the knife wouldn’t slide or fall.

But most of all The Walking Dead taught her to keep fighting because walkers wouldn’t stop until they killed you. When her attacker kept stabbing her she knew she had to kill him in order to stop the attack.

John Meehan

According to the podcast, which is definitely worth a listen, John Meehan married Terra’s mother Debra after Debra’s marriage to Terra’s father fell apart. John seemed like the perfect guy, but over the years the family found out that he was a narcissistic liar and criminal. Chillingly, he bragged that he had ties to the Mob and spoke admiringly about the way that Mob hitmen would attack the loved ones of targets so that the targets would suffer more.

The podcast goes in-depth into John’s long history of lies and violent episodes. Terra, her sister Jaquelyn, and mother Debra lived for years with the threat of John returning to their lives to cause havoc. He’d been arrested but always seemed to get out of prison before too long. And he never stopped fixating on the Newell family.


Terra Newell is a very soft-spoken and mild-mannered girl. At the time of the attack, she was 25 and worked as a dog groomer at a dog boarding and grooming facility just a few miles from her apartment in CA. She had a cat and a little dog, Cash. Cash would go to work with her and luckily was with her the day she was attacked.

Terra often had nightmares about being attacked. She had dreams in the past that John attacked her and tried to stab her. She never trusted him and had instinctively drawn away from him even before her mother married him.

The Lead-Up

In the days leading up to Terra’s atta, k her sister had warned her that John Meehan was back in the area. Jaquelyn had seen Meehan at her own apartment complex and felt sure that he had come to attack her. But she wasn’t alone when he showed up and she felt that scared him off. Jaquelyn was afraid that he’d go after Terra next. Which is exactly what he did.

The day before the attack a man using a fake sounding accent called Terra at work to ask about her work schedule the next day. Not suspicious, she told him what time she would be working the next day. He said that he wanted to bring his two dogs to be groomed. But no man brought in dogs the next day.

Terra left work with Cash and headed home on the bright and sunny California day. As she was getting out her car she saw a man near her fiddling with something in the back of his car, which was backed into a parking spot near the spot where she customarily parked. Cash growled and snapped which raised her guard.

The man was John Meehan. And he was fussing with what police later called a “kidnap kit” that he had in the back of his car. It was a backpack with duct tape, 13 cable ties, and 6 sharp kitchen style knives. As Terra got Cash out of the car John Meehan rushed her and grabbed her by the waist.

The Attack

Terra fought back immediately. She said that the mindset she adopted from The Walking Dead, “kill or be killed” kicked in and she knew she was fighting for her life. On the podcast she described that felt like John was punching her in the moment of the attack. But he was actually stabbing her. She defensively raised her arms to protect her face and chest and ended up with multiple stab wounds including a one inch deep gash in her arm that cut deep into the muscle and tissue of her arm.

They struggled for several seconds, and then she fell to the pavement. He kneeled over her as she laid on her back on the ground. He raised his arms over his head to bring the knife down again and again. But she didn’t lose her presence of mind. She was wearing sturdy rain boots with good tread and she kicked him over and over as hard she could.

One of her kicks knocked the knife from his hand. It fell with the handle facing her, right near her right hand. With her survival instinct in overdrive she didn’t hesitate to grab the knife and start stabbing. She stabbed him in the back and shoulders repeatedly. Then she remembered the number one lesson for survival from The Walking Dead: go for the brain. She stabbed the blade through his left eye, into his brain, the way she had seen the survivors on The Walking Dead take out walkers.

He fell, convulsed, and was still. He was dead. Paramedics later restarted his heart but he was brain-dead. You can find out more about the story, including his history with Terra’s family, by listening to the entire podcast. It’s a fascinating story that thankfully Terra survived.

More from Undead Walking

This Is Why Representation Matters

On a personal note I want to point out that stories like this are exactly why representation matters in film and TV. The Walking Dead’s unwavering commitment to fully developed and fully capable female characters can have an impact that goes far beyond the screen.

Women seeing other women on their screens who can defend themselves, fight for those they love, and survive show tells them that they can also fight back and be strong.

In many ways I think that women are better suited to survival in a post-apocalyptic world because the constant threat of violence is part of our everyday reality already. Walking down the street while female and ignoring a man’s advances can and does result in women getting killed or assaulted every single day.

Watching relatable female characters like Carol, and Michonne, and Maggie on The Walking Dead gives women the tools to fight when they need to. But more than that it gives them the mindset they need to fight back: that they can do what they need to do to survive.