2022 has been a year that’s spoilt us with several amazing true crime docs, from The Tinder Swindler to Girl In The Picture. It’s not over yet though: Netflix has brought its latest shocking docu-series Killer Sally, to the platform, and it’s one with a pretty unique premise: focusing on the life of bodybuilder Sally McNeil, who endured a difficult and rocky marriage that culminated in her being accused of murdering her husband. Much like Netflix’s earlier I Just Killed My Dad though, there’s more to the killing than first appears.
Sally had suffered years of physical abuse from both her family and her previous husband, whom she had children with, and hoped she’d find a new life when she met her future husband, Ray, with the couple quickly marrying. However, a rift steadily grew between the pair, due in part to competitiveness, with Ray in particular obsessed with being the best. The two used steroids, which resulted in an increasingly violent temperament in both, but most of the violence came from Ray. Sally and the other interviewees who knew the couple recall across the doc’s three episodes some of the shocking violence that occurred in their house and relationship and how it was becoming unbearable for Sally.
On Valentine’s Day in 1995, the abuse Sally suffered and the broken down relationship led to her snapping. Having been attacked and choked by Ray, she demanded that he leave the house and get away from her whilst holding a shotgun. When he came at her, she fired twice. Though Ray remained alive when she called the police and was sent to the hospital, he died after a few hours of being treated and was found to have been on multiple steroids. Sally did not deny that she killed her husband by shooting him but maintained it was an act of self-defence. Sally already had the nickname “Killer Sally” prior to the incident due to her bodybuilding career and videos, and this added to the media frenzy around the investigation and trial.
What the documentary then explores is that, due to her large build and time spent as a Marine, she was seen as a naturally violent person, and prosecutors claimed she was essentially too strong and muscular to have been abused. With her children sent away across the country, she was left to face trial in a legal system that was convinced she was a murderer. The three-hour series, which is available now, is an engrossing and insightful look into the investigation and court case, with its director, Burnstein, telling The Guardian: “You do have to wonder about somebody’s innocence or guilt, just like the jury had to wonder this.”
“So it’s important to present the strong argument that the prosecution was making…but some of it was also pointing out how inane some of the argument was, that she couldn’t have possibly been a victim because she was too strong. Which is absurd.”