The story of Sally McNeil and the murder of her husband Ray McNeil (sometimes spelled McNeill) has generated a lot of buzz. “Killer Sally” was in the top 10 of Netflix shows, both globally and in the US.
While watching and then re-watching the three part series, something didn’t sit well with me. There’s always more to the story and I always want to know more.
I want to share a different perspective about the murder of Ray. I plan to write a lengthier and more detailed rebuttal to Sally’s claims, but in the meantime this is meant as a prelude to a more comprehensive story to come.
Sally repeatedly claimed in the series that her body building husband was an abuser and that she was a battered wife – and was left with no choice but to shoot her husband in self defense.
However, Sally’s testimony to the Parole Board in 2019 and 2020 refutes her own statements in the Netflix series. It offers a completely different version of events that led up to the shooting of her unarmed husband.
Both Ray and Sally were in the Marine Corps stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. When Sally started bodybuilding she said her Staff Sergeant Ira Kelly, told her “You know, the bodybuilding contest isn’t just a bikini contest.” She ended up placing 4th in the Armed Forces Bodybuilding Championship in 1987.
Ray and Sally lived in a home on South Freeman Street, in Oceanside, California, after they were married. They would eventually move to an apartment at 1802 South Tremont Street in South Oceanside. The couple both belonged to Gold’s Gym, which was located on South Hill Street (Coast Highway) and both pursued bodybuilding. Sally also wrestled various “clients” across the country, many of which were filmed.
Sally presented herself as an abused and battered wife. And I believe she was. But Sally also abused and battered. The list of violence perpetrated by Sally includes:
- Hitting her first husband, John Anthony Lowden, in the head with a lead pipe, requiring 8 stitches.
- Assaulting numerous officers in two different police departments.
- The assault of two teenage female babysitters and two unrelated adults.
- Dropping weights on Ray’s car, while he was in it.
- Arrested for willful cruelty to a child in 1990.
Despite her history of violence, she has garnered the sympathy of many and headlines echo Sally’s claims of self defense. The Guardian is one example with a headline that reads: “This is still happening today: the story of an abused wife accused of murder.” The byline opens by saying “A sensitive new docuseries considers the case of Sally McNeil, a woman who killed her violent husband in self-defense.”
In the Netflix series Sally recounts the terrifying moments leading up to the shooting of Ray while her two children were home.
“First, he hit me. ‘Cause I told him, I said, “Well, you look like sh–.” “You’re not gonna place at all.” “You’re not striated in the contest.”
“So then he hit me. And then he started choking me. I got scared, and I thought, “He’s gonna kill me, and I’m not gonna make it through this night.” I scrambled away. I ran to the bedroom and retrieved the weapon. I grabbed two, um… two rоսnds, and, um, walked out to the living room, and loaded the weapon as I was walking out to the living room. I didn’t know what he was capable of doing. He had five different steroids in him. He was superhuman. He was super strong and he was super fast in a small apartment.
“So I tell him to get out, and he says, “No,” so I shot him.. He’s on the ground, so I go out and I grab the blanket, and I came in and brought it and covered him, to prevent shock.”
Sally called 911 and said: “I just shot my husband because he just bеɑt me up.” She would repeat this at least two more times to the operator.
Operator: You shot your husband?
Sally: Yes. I’m at 1802 South Tremont Street.
Operator: Who’s crying?
Sally: My daughter.
Operator: Okay, is he dead?
Sally: He’s shot.
Operator: Okay. What’s your name?
Sally: My name is Sally McNeil. Don’t touch the door, Shantina!
Operator: How old is he?
Sally: He might bеɑt me up!
Operator: Ma’am! I just got bеɑt up.
Sally’s daughter describes how she heard her mother choking before Ray was shot. Sally told police the scratches on her neck were from Ray choking her.
But at her parole hearing she revealed the real origin of those marks:
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: I was looking back over my notes and I wanted to ask you, this is kind of jumping back a bit, but back at the life crime, you did have some marks on your neck? And I wanted to ask you where those marks came from? Did you hear my question?
INMATE MCNEIL: No. Ma’am. Can you repeat it.
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: At the time of the life crime the record it’s showed something about you having marks on your neck. So, where did those marks come from?
INMATE MCNEIL: I was wrestling the day before. I had a client and it probably came from there. There were scratches on the back of my neck too. They noticed them, I let them believe what they wanted to believe.
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: So, you said the marks were on your neck from wrestling the day before?
INMATE MCNEIL: Yes, ma’am.
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: And you said you let them believe what they want to believe. Who is them? And they?
INMATE MCNEIL: The police noticed, they noted that I had marks on my neck.
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: Okay. Did you say anything to the police about where you got those marks?
INMATE MCNEIL: I said he was choking me and that’s probably how it happened. And I probably scratched myself when I tried to stop him from choking me. That’s what I told them.
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: So, you told the police, the victim was choking you and that you had scratched your neck?
INMATE MCNEIL: Yes, ma’am.
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: Was that true?
INMATE MCNEIL: No.
In another portion of the hearing Sally McNeil concedes that she shot her husband in anger, not self defense.
INMATE MCNEIL: I admit what the DA said, I don’t have any arguments with him. I accept responsibility.
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: Today, do you say that the victim abused you at all?
INMATE MCNEIL: No. The victim did not — the victim did not abuse me that day.
PRESIDING COMMISSIONER THORNTON: And was there any element of self-defense that day?
INMATE MCNEIL: No, ma’am.
This testimony to the Parole Board belies the story Sally now tells on the popular Netflix series. There’s more to share, more to reveal; the truth, not just sensationalized storytelling. Stay tuned.