Netflix’s new true-crime documentary, Killer Sally, detailed the events surrounding the 1995 murder of Mr. Olympia competitor, Ray McNeil, but a few details were omitted from the limited series. The focus of the documentary is former amateur wrestler, Sally McNeil, Ray’s wife and murderer, who tells her story through interviews covering much of her early life, marriage to Ray, night of the murder, and the aftermath and trial. While Sally’s account of events is comprehensive, she mentions that she is only human, and her memory is not perfect. Along with the fact that audiences are only told her story, what is fact and what is fiction is hard to determine.
Killer Sally distances itself from many other Netflix true-crime documentaries as Sally tells her own story, and more to the point, wants her story to be told. Viewers were told about Sally’s devastating reality of being stuck in a cycle of abuse, not just from her husband, Ray, but also from her parents during childhood and even the unfortunate effects of this spiraling onto her children. Killer Sally has become one of Netflix’s most popular true-crime shows since its release in October 2022, not least because of the personal touch of having Sally herself in front of the camera, but it didn’t always give audiences the full story.
Why Did Sally McNeil Really Kill Her Husband?
According to Sally McNeil in her Killer Sally interview, on the night of Valentine’s Day 1995, Ray had spent much of the evening away from home instead of with his wife. Worried about his whereabouts, and with fear that he had been spending the evening with one of his other lovers, Sally prepared herself to go to the local bar and look for him. While she was getting ready, Ray returned home and the pair got into a fight over where he had been, culminating in Ray beginning to beat up and choke Sally in a rage amplified by his use of steroids.
In Sally’s account of the story, she managed to get away from her uncontrollable husband and scramble to the bedroom, where she kept a sawn-off shotgun as protection for her and her children. She fired one round into Ray’s stomach, though according to the Killer Sally documentary, Ray kept coming for Sally, forcing her to fire another round which hit him in the face and brought him to the floor. Sally immediately called 911 and confessed to the murder, though it wasn’t until later in the hospital when Ray actually succumbed to his wounds.
Killer Sally Was Married & Had Children Before Ray
The Netflix true-crime documentary covered Sally’s life before her marriage to Ray, including her previous marriage to a man named Anthony Lowden. Sally and Anthony were married for four years, and had three children, though only two were shown in the Killer Sally documentary, Shantina and John. Sally mentioned that her relationship with Anthony had started off strong, but had deteriorated after the pair had married, leading to Sally’s first experiences with spousal abuse and the eventual serving of divorce papers. During the couple’s divorce, their third child was put up for adoption and taken in by another family, leaving Sally as a single mother with two young children.
Killer Sally’s Time In The Marines (& Why She Was Demoted)
After her divorce from Anthony Lowden, Sally joined the Marines, following in the footsteps of her uncle and brother who had also been members of the Armed Forces. She served at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County and reached the rank of sergeant, while also competing in bodybuilding competitions for serving Marines. On two occasions in the late 1980s, Sally won the US Armed Services Physique Championships, and began her passion for bodybuilding. Eventually, a friend introduced her to Ray McNeil, who was also serving as a Marine, in 1987. The pair dated for only two months before getting married.
The Killer Sally documentary touches on the subject of Sally’s behavioral issues while serving in the Marines, but it doesn’t go into detail about what this entailed. In 1990, Sally was demoted from her position as a sergeant for her continuously poor behavioral record, including anger issues, violence, and lashing out at others. Her behavioral record also meant that she couldn’t re-enlist in the Armed Forces after serving her time. It was ultimately this chain of events that led to Sally being discharged from the military, so when Ray left too, they settled in Oceanside, California, turning to their professional bodybuilding dreams for their source of income.
Killer Sally’s Violent Family Explained
Sally described herself as having a tough upbringing, with domestic violence being so frequent that she thought that it must be commonplace in every normal household. Unfortunately, this was a theme that chased Sally through every moment of her early and adult life, firstly by her father, then her first husband, and ultimately by Ray. Ray’s spousal abuse started only three days after their marriage, and wasn’t only focused on Sally, but also her two children who had become Ray’s step-children. However, the violence wasn’t one-sided, as the true-crime documentary details. In fact, Sally herself also suffered from serious anger control problems and was also frequently violent.
While Killer Sally did mention some of Sally’s violence, it avoided going into too much detail about these events. Not long after starting her “Killer Sally” business, hiring herself out to wrestle with paying customers, Sally pinned one of Ray’s lovers to the floor and beat her, resulting in the National Physique Committee suspending her for a year. This led to the first case of Sally pulling her gun on Ray before being pepper-sprayed by police. Sally also found herself in an altercation with a club owner after being told not to dance on tables, kicking him in the face and threatening to kill police officers when they reprimanded her.
Why Killer Sally’s Husband Gave Up Professional Wrestling In 1994
In 1994, only a year before his eventual murder, Ray McNeil retired from professional wrestling, wanting a career change and apparently a life change as this was also when his affairs began to end. Perhaps inspired by the works of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ray decided to pursue a career in acting, even going so far as to take acting classes while Sally worked. The former bodybuilder also got interested in stand-up comedy, performing his material in free comedy shows at The Comedy Club in La Jolla, San Diego.
As well as pursuing his acting and comedy career, Ray took it upon himself to become Sally’s bodybuilding mentor. While this could have seemed like a romantic and loving gesture to the outside eye, this decision only caused their relationship to become more hostile. Their fights became more heated and turbulent, with violence being committed by both parties. Ray’s career change and ensuing hostility took place in the months leading up to his murder, with tension building between the pair until they eventually snapped.
Killer Sally’s Story Of Valentine’s Day 1995 Didn’t Really Make Sense
Sally McNeil’s account of the night of Valentine’s Day 1995 certainly seemed incredibly convincing during the Killer Sally interviews, but it must be taken with a pinch of salt as it’s only one side of the story, and Sally herself admits that her memory may not be the most trustworthy. As featured in Netflix’s new documentary, evidence arose during Sally’s trial that questioned the validity of the story she had expressed, including her body language during the initial police interview, the trajectory of the rounds fired into Ray (one of which must have been fired while he was on the floor), and the blood splatter on their living room lamp.
One piece of evidence that Killer Sally failed to mention was the DNA testing, which is usually the turning point of any good true-crime documentary. In the case of Sally McNeil, none of her DNA was found on Ray’s person, which effectively debunks her story of being beaten up and choked relentlessly in the minutes before she shot Ray. There’s no doubt that Ray was an abuser to her and her children, but if Sally had been beaten as much as she’d claimed on that evening, her DNA would be on Ray, so it’s curious that none was found.
Why Sally McNeil’s Conviction Was Overturned, Then Reinstated
Sally claimed self-defense at trial, but was convicted of second-degree murder in 1996 and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison, meaning the jury believed that she intended to kill Ray, but did so unplanned and in the heat of the moment. Over the course of her stay in prison, Sally made numerous requests for parole on a variety of grounds, including improper jury instructions. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her conviction, though this was taken to the US Supreme Court by the State of California which reversed the decision and reinstated her conviction in 2004.
Sally McNeil served 25 years in the Central California Woman’s Facility in Chowchilla, California, before finally being released on parole in May 2020. The Killer Sally documentary briefly shows her life since leaving prison, showing her getting married once again and getting back in touch with her now-adult children. The story of Sally and Ray McNeil is certainly a tragic one, filled with violence and turmoil. While Killer Sally ends with Sally finally being free, Ray certainly didn’t get a happy ending, though it will surely remain unclear whose side of the story is actually the truth.