CRIME HUNTER: Is bodybuilder Sally McNeil a battered woman or a killer?

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How professional bodybuilder Sally McNeil saw it was her or him.

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One of them had to end up dying.

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She chose herself as a survivor and parked a bullet in her abusive husband, bodybuilding champion Ray McNeil. He had a funeral, she turned 19 in the slammer.

Now, a new three-part documentary from Netflix, Killer Sally, asks the question of the high-profile homicide: Was Sally McNeil a railroad victim and was the victim shamed?

The couple met when they were both in the US Marines and found they shared a passion for bodybuilding and fitness.

“He looked like the statue of David. He was gorgeous,” Sally told the doc’s producers. “Lust at first sight.”

Sally thought Ray McNeil was an adonis.  They married three months after meeting.  NETFLIX
Sally thought Ray McNeil was an adonis. They married three months after meeting. NETFLIX

The two giants tied the knot in 1987 as their two stars rose into the world of bodybuilding, fake tans and posing for pictures. Things were going well – at least on the outside. Behind the doors, the couple constantly argued.

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Sally was 27 and divorced after an unhappy four-year start marriage.

She pursued a career in professional wrestling, and the money from that venture provided enough financial leeway for Ray to retire from the Marines and pursue his passion for bodybuilding full-time.

In order to earn extra money, Sally got involved in the bizarre world of “muscle worship”. In this company, female bodybuilders are recorded wrestling men in the ground. She was paid per man.

“If I fought 10, it’s $3,000,” she said. “He made Ray happy he paid for his steroids, then he hit me.”

Sally and Ray McNeil both used steroids.  NETFLIX
Sally and Ray McNeil both used steroids. NETFLIX

And there were other problems. Ray McNeil was a serial womanizer and once a year before the murder, Sally was confronted by one of Lothario’s playmates.

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On February 14, 1995, at their home in Oceanside, California, an already volatile situation escalated into bloodshed. On the evening in question, the couple were engaged in a massive domestic donnybrook that kept getting worse.

Sally feared that her abusive husband would eventually kill her with his bare fists.

Instead, she grabbed a shotgun and pulled the trigger twice. Ray McNeil took a blow to the abdomen and another that ripped his head off.


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The former Armed Forces bodybuilding champion called 911, saying she shot her husband in self-defense after hours of beatings. She told the operator, “I just shot my husband because he just beat me.”

But the Netflix doc goes squarely on the side of the tragedy of Sally, who claims she was suffocated.

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“Sally claimed it was self-defense, a split decision to save her life,” the Netflix promo claims. “The prosecution argued that it was a premeditated murder, the revenge of a jealous and aggressive wife. They called her a ‘thug’, a ‘thug’ and a ‘monster’.

“The media called her a ‘muscle bride’ and a ‘bloated princess’. Sally says she spent her life doing whatever it took to survive, caught in a cycle of violence that started in the childhood and ended with Ray’s death.

Was bodybuilder Sally McNeil a battered wife or an accomplice killer?
Was bodybuilder Sally McNeil a battered wife or an accomplice killer? Photo by HANDOUT /NETFLIX

His kids are 100% in the beleaguered bodybuilder’s corner, claiming Ray McNeil was a psycho-abuser.

“I remember how torturous it was to have to sit there and watch him abuse my sister and know I was next,” Sally’s son said.

A problem for Sally was that she and her husband abused steroids which have an explosive effect on people, turning meek and meek into raging maniacs. Soon the killing became known as the “Roid Rage Killing”.

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Steroids or not, Sally McNeil was an abused woman terrorized daily by a monster. She insists it would either be her or Ray in a coroner’s van at the morgue.

“I have the right to defend myself,” Sally said. ” I could not any more. I didn’t want to die.

Prosecutors took another view. Their theory was that Sally wanted Ray off the board and that the murder was planned and premeditated.

The jury agreed and the blonde bodybuilder was convicted of second degree murder in 1996. She was sentenced to 19 years to life at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.

Killer Sally is currently streaming on Netflix.



WHEN: FEB. 17, 1995

411: Gillings was a 19-year-old sex worker in Hamilton and known to hang around the areas of King St. E. and Emerald St. N. She was well known at a closed watering hole named Straw Hat.

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At approximately 5 p.m. on Friday, February 17, 1995, her body was discovered in an alley behind 483 King St. E. She was last seen alive on Thursday, February 16, 1995 at around 1 a.m. when she left the Straw hat. Tavern and entered the alley with a man, who was identified by Hamilton Police detectives.

Cops believe there are people with information related to Gillings’ murder and are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for his murder. Contact the Homicide Unit at 905-546-3801 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).


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