Netflix ‘Killer Sally’ Tells the Devastating Story of a Bodybuilder’s Murder

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TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains disturbing details of sexual assault and abuse. Reader discretion is advised. If you or someone you know is having difficulty, Seek help from sexual abuse crisis centers and help lines across Canada.

On Valentine’s Day 1995, bodybuilding champion Ray McNeil was shot dead by his wife Sally McNeil, and while the media at the time were quick to brand her a “”muscular bride” and “princess” swollen”, the Netflix documentary series Killer Sally allows Sally to tell this complex and incredibly dark story in her own words.

“I was taught that I’m the most violent and the world isn’t violent,” Sally says on the show. “But in my eyes, when I get attacked, it’s my right to defend myself, I have the right to defend myself.”

As Daniel Goldstein, former district attorney and prosecutor in charge of prosecuting Sally, states, there are two types of homicides, the “who did it” and the “what is it”, and this case of murder falls into the “what is it” category.

Sally claims that on February 14, 1995, her husband was choking her and in an act of self-defence, she shot him twice. The charge focused on a shotgun shell found in the bedroom, suggesting that Sally had returned to the bedroom, where the ammunition was, to reload the gun and shoot her husband a second time. Sally was convicted of second degree murder and served 25 years in prison.

Where the question of “what is it” is in her motivation to shoot her husband, with Sally, corroborated by her children John and Shantina, claiming that Ray physically assaulted her and sexually during their marriage.

“When he attacked me, he choked me instantly,” Sally said. “I shouldn’t have let it come to this.”

“I should have left him on the third day of our marriage. The day he punched me in the face, split his lip, then he apologized to me and said ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again” and I believed him.

“It never got better, it got worse,” adds Shantina, Sally’s daughter and Ray’s daughter-in-law.

Sally McNeil in

Sally McNeil in “Killer Sally” (Netflix)

“If guys don’t want to see overly muscular women look like men, it won’t sell”

Behind these allegations of domestic violence lies what is referred to in Killer Sally as the “shabby side of bodybuilding”.

Sally and Ray met in the Marine Corps in California, both bodybuilders and both dreamed of eventually turning pro. Ray left the Marine Corps in 1991 hoping to elevate his career as a bodybuilder, while Sally took a job as a mess cook to earn some money.

“Ray felt like the most important person in the family,” says Sally. “He was trying to get me to give up my dream so I could support him, … I could fund his budding career in bodybuilding.”

Sally revealed that Ray had significant ‘insecurities’ when it came to his body, always feeling like he wasn’t big enough, and that’s when the use of steroids was introduced , for him and Sally, while Sally points out that he used a lot more than she did.

It has been documented that men make significantly more money than women in bodybuilding. As eight-time Ms. Olympia winner Lenda Murray notes, she received US$27,000 for her first victory while the men of Mr. Olympia took home US$150,000, in addition to the challenge of getting strong coverage from the female events.

“A lot of women…they haven’t gotten attention on TV,” said Hugh Malay, a former ESPN sportscaster in Killer Sally. “If guys don’t want to see overly muscular women looking like men, it won’t sell.”

As Sally worked to support her family, fueling her husband’s heavy schedule and steroid use, she began making a wrestling video for a man called Bill Wick, where she fought him in a sort of fictional scenario. Sally then went on to make videos on her own and had a type of “stage name” of “Killer Sally”.

“I started thinking to myself, why should I let these men exploit me when I can exploit myself and make money from videos?” Sally said.

Sally then moved on to “private wrestling sessions” in the 1990s, where men paid for private time with these muscular women, which women bodybuilders often did for money.

As Lee Penman, a bodybuilding journalist explains in Killer Sallythese men were referred to as “schmoes”, who would “get away with it” by paying women to fight them.

“Other people use the word schmo, I don’t use that word,” Sally says. “I made a lot of money with these men. I will never degrade them.

(Left to right) Sally McNeil and Ray McNeil in

(Left to right) Sally McNeil and Ray McNeil in “Killer Sally” Netflix)

“He was literally like the devil to me”

In all of these personal circumstances, the McNeil household began to grow more tense, with Shantina describing her stepfather as “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”.

Sally’s son, John, remembers Ray not only abusing his mother, but “spanking” him and his sister, often while the other brother watched.

“I remember how torture it was for me as a kid to have to sit there and watch him abuse my sister’s shit and know I was next,” says John. “I really hated him. He was literally like the devil to me.

Sally also reveals in the docuseries that Ray raped her after further physical abuse and would say, “That means you forgive me”.

“I should have left, but I was so broken, I was so broken that I didn’t know I was broke,” Sally says.

But Killer Sally also documents Sally’s violent history, often linked to physical abuse and threats against the women Ray was believed to have cheated on her with over the years.

Most notably, in 1990, Sally was suspended from the National Physics Committee after attacking a woman who allegedly had an affair with Ray.

Sally McNeil in

Sally McNeil in “Killer Sally” (Netflix)

The most painful part of ‘Killer Sally’

The most heartbreaking moment of Killer Sally comes when we see footage of Sally talking to her children, after they were all taken to the police station following the 1995 attack.

Sally tells John and Shantina that Ray “is in heaven now” and breaks down crying, her daughter instantly reaching out and hugging her mother.

Shantina then says, “He was a bad man though”, John urging his mother to tell the police it was self-defense, just before the children were taken to children’s services.

To see those little children who, as they remember as adults, were at home and heard their mother choked by their stepfather and the two shots that killed him, frantically trying to find reasons Why their mother shouldn’t go to jail is painful to hear.

A statement repeated in Killer Sally it was that Sally didn’t look like a victim. Daniel Goldstein’s view is that this is actually a case of people thinking women can’t be violent, adding he didn’t see ‘a lot of remorse’ from her and that Sally had not presented herself as the “fearful battered woman she claimed”. be.”

“He was ‘the guy on steroids, the big black man who attacked his wife’, so ‘he deserved what he got’,” Ray’s friend DJ said in Killer Sallypointing out that this was not the case.

A central question of Killer Sally that is, was Sally’s ultimate fate influenced by the fact that she didn’t fit the mold of a feminine woman? Did her physique and the way she earned money make her incapable of being a victim?

This case arose around the time of the “angry woman” narrative in widespread media at the time, including Tonya Harding and Lorena Bobbitt, all of whom starred in Sally’s story. But the suggestion that Sally couldn’t be a “battered woman” because she was seen as a physically strong woman, seems incredibly flawed and speaks to our issues of prejudice and outdated gender norms.

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