Why did Sally kill Ray? The couple’s abusive relationship

Sally McNeil

Sally McNeil didn’t deny that she shot her husband, Ray – she admitted as much to the 911 operator. According to a snippet of the 911 call played at the beginning of Netflix’s Killer Sally, Ray was still breathing when Sally called for help. McNeil said she shot Ray because he was beating her. 

McNeil shot Ray with a 12-gauge shotgun in the abdomen before reloading and shooting him in the head. Ray suffered a shattered jaw and a ripped abdomen. Paramedics found his liver hanging out, but he was still alive. Despite frantic efforts to save Ray, he passed away due to the abdominal injury. 

Sally killed Ray following years of psychological and physical abuse

Ray and Sally | Netflix

Sally and Ray’s whirlwind romance culminated in marriage months after they met. However, Sally said three days into the marriage, Ray assaulted her, foreshadowing eight years of an abusive marriage. 

“Looking back, I should have left him after the 3rd day of our marriage,” Sally told RxMuscle. “He beat me up because the Warrant Officer who was in charge of me told Ray he should not have married me because I was ‘used goods’. Ray got mad because I had dated two other guys before I met him.”

From the outside, Sally and Ray seemed to have the perfect marriage – two bodybuilders at the top of their game showing nothing but affection towards each other. However, the veneer hid a turbulent relationship filled with violence. Sally said that Ray abused her hundreds of times during their marriage. 

On the day of the shooting, Ray said he’d gone to buy chicken for dinner. After Ray arrived several hours later, Sally questioned whether he was with another woman. Sally noted that Ray cheated on her with men and women. 

McNeil said that in the ensuing argument, Ray slapped her, pushed her down, and started choking her. Sally got away and grabbed her gun. McNeil said she shot Ray the second time because the first shot didn’t immobilize him. 

“I told you that I wasn’t taking your shit anymore,” McNeil reportedly told Ray, according to court documents. There was a suggestion that steroids contributed to the shooting. McNeil believed Ray’s violence towards her was fueled by his steroid use. 

“He confessed he was on steroids and had been having a ‘roid rage,’ Sally said. The toxicology reports showed that Ray had five different steroids in his system, and Sally had one. McNeil’s daughter, Shantina Lowden, refused to blame steroids for the violence or Ray’s death. She said in the Netflix series:

“What is talked about in the series is that steroids, while they can amp up your personality, they don’t create something that’s not there. In this case, because the relationship was volatile, it definitely made things worse. But the reason for that volatility was that there was a cycle of violence.”

The jury didn’t believe that Sally was a victim of Battered Wife Syndrome

“I think, sadly, there’s still a misconception that women should just leave [from an abusive relationship,” Nanette Burstein, Killer Sally’s director, told Fox News Digital. Sally told RxMuscle that she had left Ray three times, but he kept coming back. 

However, Sally didn’t put as much effort into leaving as perhaps she should have – and she believes Battered Wife Syndrome explains why she stayed. “Yes I should have left him but my self esteem was so beaten down by him that I thought he was the best I could get,” Sally said. She continued:

“I was afraid of getting Ray into trouble. I was afraid of losing Ray. Looking back I realize I was a classic case of Battered Wife Syndrome. I was in denial that Ray was abusive to me. My self esteem was so low. I didn’t think I could attract another man like Ray. I felt I was lucky to have him.”

During Sally’s trial, an expert testified that Sally had BWS. The expert said that BWS could have caused her to shoot Ray as she genuinely believed she was in imminent danger. Domestic violence expert Dr. Don Button told A&E True Crime:

“People don’t understand why someone would stay with a person who treats them so badly. But a victim with battered woman syndrome suffers from low self-esteem, trauma, anxiety and depression. They also form an unnatural attachment to the abuser.”

Unfortunately, getting an acquittal on the basis of BWS is difficult in court. CarolAnn Peterson said judges should allow juries to consider BWS in spousal homicide cases. Peterson added:

“With a jury, it’s very possible you have people who have not been through domestic violence or have a close relative who has. So they may think the victim can simply leave the house. And it is not that easy.”