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Did 'Killer Sally' Sally McNeil Murder Her Bodybuilder Husband In Self-Defense?

After eight unhappy years of marriage, bodybuilding couple Sally and Ray McNeil, who were both former Marines, had their last fight on Valentine's Day, 1995.

Vincent Bloodworth
Vincent Bloodworth
Feb 18, 202414 Shares407 Views
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  1. The Battle Wounded Wife Defense Of Sally McNeil
  2. The Trial And Appeal Of Sally McNeil
Did 'Killer Sally' Sally McNeil Murder Her Bodybuilder Husband In Self-Defense?

After eight unhappy years of marriage, bodybuilding couple Sally and Ray McNeil, who were both former Marines, had their last fight on Valentine's Day, 1995.

Sally retrieved a 12-gauge shotgun from a nearby closet and fired a single shot into Ray's belly. She reloaded and shot her husband in the face once again when he fell to his knees. John, who is nine years old, and Shantina, who is eleven years old, were in the house when the shooting happened.

The McNeils were the most well-known pair in professional bodybuilding in 1991 when Ray achieved his career high with the title of Mr. California.

As a fierce competitor, Sally won the U.S. Armed Services Physique Championship not once but twice in the late '80s. According to allegations in the press, the couple's relationship was characterized by a volatile mix of emotions, including jealousy, adultery, physical abuse, and 'roid anger.

After the fact, in an interview with, Sally reflected on her stormy existence with Ray. "I broke up with him around three times, and each time, he followed me wherever I went... In hindsight, I should have ended our marriage on the third day.

The Battle Wounded Wife Defense Of Sally McNeil

Sally, a female submission wrestler, earned a livelihood by submitting her opponents to holding techniques on the mat to force them to tap out. Sally, alias "Killer Sally" or "Killer McNeil," contacted 911 on the day of the murder to report that Ray had choked her, which had prompted her to take a gun to him out of fear for her life.

According to the New York Daily News and other news sites, Ray shook his head in disbelief and screamed out, "No!" as he lay bleeding. Ray died from his gunshot wounds after being rushed to the hospital.

Sally was accused of first-degree murder, even though she claimed self-defense. According to a 2015 Muscular Development report, prosecutor Daniel Goldstein painted her as the aggressive aggressor in the relationship who murdered Ray for the life insurance policy and out of anger because he was about to leave her.

According to press accounts, Ray's autopsy found five distinct types of steroids in his system, and Sally tested positive for Deca-Durabolin at the time of her arrest. Sally had a history of severe assault charges before her husband's death, including assaulting a woman at a bodybuilding competition who she believed was having an affair with Ray.

Following many psychiatric interviews in which Sally detailed her husband's years of psychological and physical abuse, a defense expert testified that she suffered from battered woman syndrome (BWS). Throughout their marriage, Sally claimed that Ray broke five of her bones and hurt her several times. The expert testified before the jury that Sally would have shot Ray due to her BWS and her real fear for her safety.

According to experts in domestic abuse in the fields of psychology and law, Sally's story fits the criteria for BWS. One of the trademarks is her worry that abandoning Ray would have escalated the situation.

The reason someone would remain in a relationship with someone who abuses them so poorly is a mystery, according to Dr. Don Dutton, an authority on domestic violence. However, a battered woman syndrome victim may experience trauma, despair, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Additionally, they develop an abnormal bond with the abuser.

According to Dutton, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, it can be challenging to prove that BWS is a contributing factor in the self-defense homicide of an abusive spouse.

She was terrified for her life; the jury has to decide whether that's believable, Dutton adds. "As far as self-defense incidents involving battered women syndrome go, Sally's case is as close as it gets."

The Trial And Appeal Of Sally McNeil

A California state jail is where she is presently serving a life sentence. In her appeal of the conviction, Sally argued that the judge had erred by excluding the expert witness from the jury's deliberations on her reasonable belief to protect herself from imminent death.

A professor of domestic abuse at USC, CarolAnn Peterson, tells that jurors are more likely to find spousal homicide cases not guilty when they are permitted to consider BWS. She claims that juries are more likely to find guilty when BWS evidence is not presented.

Peterson argues that judges should let jurors take BWS into account for them to grasp the whole extent of what occurs in an abusive relationship. Anyone serving on a jury might have never experienced domestic abuse themselves or have a close family who has. As a result, they might assume the victim can just go home. And trust me, it's no picnic.

Sally had her conviction reversed in 2003 by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A law professor at Penn State University, who says the decision could have been the same even if the jury had been permitted to examine Sally's BWS.

"It seems like there was fighting on both sides, which is pretty typical," Kinports remarks. You won't come out as weak, though. It appears the jury didn't think she was genuinely scared because they found her guilty of second-degree murder. The difficulty women still face in obtaining acquittals in such situations persists.

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