“Killer Sally” is a crime documentary series on Netflix that portrays the case of bodybuilder Sally McNeil while also bringing up some serious questions worth discussing. The three-episode-long series interviews a number of Sally’s friends and associates, friends of her husband Ray, their children, and Sally herself, as they all talk about the events that led to the incidents of February 14, 1994. As a documentary show, “Killer Sally” is quite well made, with a good engaging edit and a pertinent question of who is, after all, to be termed a victim.
Who Is Sally McNeil? What Is Her Story?
Sally McNeil is a former bodybuilder and amateur wrestler who made the headlines back in 1994, unfortunately for reasons other than her profession. While serving in the US Marine Corps around 1987, Sally had introduced herself to the world of bodybuilding after she started to enjoy keeping her body in shape and regularly working out at the gym. She admits that her initial intention had just been to grow her body bigger so that she could defend herself, but she was swiftly introduced to competitive bodybuilding. She had participated in her first competition in the Armed Forces Bodybuilding Championship of 1987, which was incidentally held on Valentine’s Day, and had been placed fourth in the standings. From there on, Sally’s passion for the activity kept growing, and it was through bodybuilding that she first met Ray McNeil. Ray was also a bodybuilder and a sergeant in the Marine Corps, and the two immediately started a romantic relationship. It did not take long for Sally and Ray to get married either, as their whirlwind romance took firmer shape, and by 1989, they had moved into an apartment in Oceanside, California, where they lived with Sally’s children from her first marriage, Shantina, and John. By this time, both Ray and Sally had participated in multiple bodybuilding competitions and had won them too. While Ray dreamt of making it to the professional stage now, he did suffer from low self-confidence and perhaps the fear of failing. As a result of this, and also because of the times they were living in being a solid reason for it, Ray started to take steroids in order to grow his muscles more and in less time. For all this, he entirely depended on Sally, who had herself made it her dream to turn Ray into a professional bodybuilder. However, good romantic times did not last too long, as a marriage that seemed perfect from the outside started to show signs of failure. The ultimate culmination of it all came on Valentine’s Day of 1994, when Sally McNeil herself dialed the 911 emergency number and informed the police that she had shot her husband in an attempt to stop him from physically assaulting her.
What Happened To Ray And Sally Following The Incident On This Night?
On the night of 14th February, Ray had been out in the bar while Sally wanted to spend some romantic time with the love of her life, her husband. After waiting for some time, she started to get dressed in order to go to the bar and look for Ray when Ray walked into their house. The two got into an argument over Ray’s absence, and it soon turned into a fight, as Ray was choking his wife after possibly beating her as well. Unlike how most people on the outside knew their love life to have been, this was really not the first time that things like this were happening inside Ray and Sally’s apartment in Oceanside. The man had been abusive towards Sally all throughout the many years they had been married and had even hit her on the very third day after their wedding ceremony. Ray had a history of extreme violence as well, and he had once been on the receiving end of abuse as well. When he was just a baby, Ray’s biological mother had abandoned him, and his aunt took on the responsibility of raising him amidst dire poverty. Another boy who used to stay at this aunt’s place used to sexually assault young Ray and make him do things against his will. It was perhaps only violence that perhaps could have given respite to Ray due to the conditions in which he grew up, and he found a great way of exercising this violence by being part of the military. After he had started professional bodybuilding, Ray would occasionally work as a bouncer in bars on free nights, and on a few of those nights, he had tremendously beaten-up men who created a ruckus inside the bar. On one particular occasion, the hugely built man, with tremendous physical strength, had beaten up a miscreant so horrifically and pushed his fingers against his eyes with such force that the man had lost his vision after the incident. After having shot her husband and also at present in her interviews with the crew of “Killer Sally,” Sally claimed that Ray would beat her up on many nights whenever he could not channel his anger and frustration on anyone outside. His abuse was not just limited to the physical either; and breached sexual limits as well, as he forced Sally to perform sexual acts with him as a sign of her having forgiven him for being abusive. While a lot of this violence was perhaps inherent to Ray and his personality, a lot of it also stemmed from the steroids that he took for his bodybuilding endeavors. At the time of his death, five different steroids had been found in Ray’s blood. It was almost like these steroids would drive the man into a blind frenzy of expressing rage and abusive behavior, and some of this abuse was faced by his stepchildren as well.
On that fateful night, Sally’s daughter, Shantina, was scared, like on most nights, that her stepfather would terribly hurt her mother, and when she heard the noise of the first shot, she had feared that Ray might have smashed Sally up against a wall. The gun with which Sally had shot her husband had been a shotgun that she herself had earlier bought to keep in her house as a means of protection against outside danger. Although Sally had been very protective about her abusive husband and had always kept quiet about her ordeal, she had decided to move back to her mother’s house with her children and was saving up money to do so. A recent report of a bodybuilder having choked his girlfriend to death had stirred an air of caution in her, and on this night, when Ray was choking her too, she somehow freed herself, grabbed hold of the shotgun, and shot Ray twice. Once he was down, in a pool of blood, Sally had handed the gun over to a passerby to show that she was not a threat to anybody else and had then dialed 911. As she was detained by the police and questioned about the incident, Ray passed away in the hospital, and Sally was charged with murder. She was held up for trial in court by the same time the next year, in 1995, and the prosecution had prepared a case for her showing how Sally herself was an extremely violent person who had tendencies and past histories of beating various people up. While the defendant’s case was arranged to show that Sally had been a victim of a toxic marriage and the ego of a pathetic human being, the prosecution argued that Sally was apparently too strong and muscular (or even manly, as was suggested) to have been a mere victim of abuse. Ray’s long-term affair with a different woman was revealed in court, and the prosecution’s theory was that Ray wanted to leave his wife, but Sally could not take it due to her jealousy. Sally’s action, as they claimed, was part of her premeditated plan to make sure that nobody else could have her husband if she could not have him.
While the general opinion of the jury still favored Sally till some point, what turned it around—and rather wrongly, in my personal opinion, was when Sally herself testified in court. Tired of being hailed as somewhat of a monstrous ex-Marine who had murdered her husband in cold blood, Sally wanted to tell the world her side of the story from her own mouth, but in the process, certain things from her past turned against her in the case. The reason Sally had not left her husband or even supported him against her own children at times was that she had gotten used to a system of abuse. She had been physically assaulted both by her stepfather and her ex-husband earlier, and by the time it came to Ray, she perhaps did not think of how else to react than to stay docile. Although Ray was dreaming hard of becoming a professional bodybuilder, the man did not have any stable source of income, and he depended solely on Sally for this. Being a bodybuilder herself, Sally participated in numerous strength competitions for the prize money, and it was she who was keeping the family afloat. After some time, she started working as an amateur wrestler in a series of on-demand videos in which she wrestled men and defeated them. These videos, which were used mostly for pornographic reasons even though they did not have any nudity or explicit acts in them, opened up a great avenue of wealth for Sally. Soon she started her own service, in which she would receive money from men to wrestle with them in hotel rooms or on mail-order videos, and it was with this money that she supported Ray by buying steroids for him. However, Ray never acknowledged her worth, for she was always inferior to him in his beliefs, and her history of such acts did not go well with the jury either. After all, the performative name Sally had used in these names and during these acts of hers was “Killer Sally.” In one of the videos and in the posters for it, Sally was seen holding the same shotgun that was the murder weapon while she boisterously spoke of her strength and courage, asking interested customers to buy the chance to wrestle with her.
‘Killer Sally’ Explained: What Did The Jury Decide In The Case Of Sally McNeil?
A month after the court trial had begun, the jury was ready to pass its judgment on March 19, 1995. While Sally had shot Ray twice—first in his chest and the next in his face, the first shot was deemed enough to have kept the abusive husband wounded and on the floor. The second bullet had been fired on Ray while he was lying on the ground, and Sally had even had to go to her bedroom to get hold of this second bullet before she reloaded the gun and shot her husband. While Sally kept claiming that she was still trying to defend herself by making sure that Ray could not harm her or her children, the jury decided otherwise. Her having to go to a different room to reload the gun in between and her own past and history convinced the jury that Sally was guilty of second-degree murder and that her killing of Ray was premeditated. The woman was sentenced to nineteen years to life in prison and remained in jail till May 2020. During these long years, her children, Shantina and John, were raised by their grandmother, who had taken them in some time after Sally’s arrest, and at present, they have children and lives of their own. They do keep in contact with their mother, even though they had lost touch in between, and Sally, too, has found a new love in her life. “Killer Sally” documentary series ends with footage of Sally and her new boyfriend marrying inside a church.
“Killer Sally” succeeds in raising the question of whether one should be considered a victim only if they do nothing wrong at all. Certain acts and decisions of Sally McNeil had definitely been wrong, and she too accepts them in hindsight, but that can never discount the fact that she had been abused, physically and sexually, by her husband day in and day out for years before that one night of pulling the trigger. On the other side, it can also be argued whether a person deserves to be shot dead because of his cruel acts and whether that is correct justice. After all, Sally had never pointed out Ray’s actions to the law or the authorities. But Sally’s situation, much like many other women’s situations who suffer domestic abuse even today, was beyond just the moments and was more about the ingrained abuse in the societal system itself. Both of Sally’s children have become part of this abuse, with Shantina herself having faced abuse from her ex-partner and John having meted out abuse on his ex-wife. It was almost expected that Sally should not have pulled the trigger the second time to kill her husband, even though she had been tortured for years before that particular incident. But, well, she was apparently too well-built and strong to have been a victim, alas.
“Killer Sally” is a 2022 Crime Documentary series streaming on Netflix.