Killer Sally is a heartbreaking tale of abuse and trauma

I just finished the three-part docuseries, Killer Sally, that's currently streaming on Netflix. It tells the story of Sally McNeil, a former professional bodybuilder and wrestler who in 1996 was convicted of murdering her husband Ray McNeil, a bodybuilder who competed in the Mr. Olympia contest. 

Movieweb explains:

Netflix true-crime documentary Killer Sally follows the story of a woman named Sally McNeil who shot and killed her husband on Valentine's Day in 1995. Sally and her husband Ray McNeil had been married since 1987, getting hitched only a couple of months after meeting. Both Sally and Ray were ex-marines who had gotten involved in bodybuilding competitions. Ray pursued it professionally, while Sally turned to wrestle to support her husband's career. The two had a difficult relationship, with Sally and her two children suffering physical abuse at the hands of Ray. Sally claims she shot her husband in self-defense after he had been choking her. She feared for her life and killed him before he could kill her.

Movieweb also posits that the docuseries is an "eye-opening look at the justice system," as it raises questions about what counts as self-defense, who gets deemed "victim" and "abuser," and how those decisions are shaped by gendered norms and stereotypes about "femininity":

This story is unique because it looks at what it means to be a "battered woman" (as it was called at the time, now we would say survivor or victim of domestic abuse). Sally, being a muscled and aggressive woman, did not fit the image of what a battered woman should look like. As the Netflix documentary heavily suggests, this influenced the jury's perception and, ultimately, their ruling in her case. She was convicted of second-degree murder (murder with malicious intent, but not premeditated) and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison. Sally served a total of 25 years in prison. 

The docuseries is absolutely heartbreaking—it presents what can only be described as an incredibly toxic relationship between Sally and her husband Ray, and recounts harrowing incidents of domestic violence that affected everyone in the home, including Sally's two children. As adults, her children both suffered from PTSD from their volatile upbringing and their subsequent tours of combat in the military. They also both repeated the harrowing cycle of domestic violence, demonstrating the devastating effects of generational trauma and abuse. Sally and her now adult children also show incredible resilience, and in the end, the docuseries provides a glimpse into their newfound recovery and slow movement into better, more peaceful lives. I highly recommend this show, but forewarned—it's difficult to watch at times.