Kay Baxter: How Did the Bodybuilder Die?

On Valentine’s Day in 1995, Sally McNeil, an amateur bodybuilder, shot and killed her fellow bodybuilder husband, Ray McNeil. Apart from exploring the case, Netflix’s ‘Killer Sally’ also delves into Sally’s early life and how she made a living at one point. She came across Bill Wick, who suggested she start making wrestling videos for a niche yet eager audience. On the show, Bill mentioned getting this idea after he married Kay Baxter, one of the earliest female bodybuilders. So, if you’re curious to find out more about her, we’ve got you covered.

Who Was Kay Baxter?

Kay Baxter was born on October 3, 1945, in Monroe County, Ohio. She studied at Kent State University and was a collegiate gymnast there. She actually started a competitive career in bodybuilding in her 30s in 1979, and while it was short-lived, she went down in history as one of the most popular and influential athletes ahead of her time. Kay competed in various events between 1979 and 1986 before pursuing a different direction.


Joe Weider, the founder of Weider Health & Fitness, said of Kay, “She was well-known because she was one of the first female bodybuilders. She was a pioneer, and she had many fans. Whenever her picture was in one of our magazines, she got many, many letters.” After all, she finished fourth in the NPC Nationals and the NPC USA championships in 1980, later competing in four Ms. Olympia events between 1982 and 1985.

However, Kay didn’t win any titles and kept placing low in Ms. Olympia because, at the time, she had a muscular physique that was reportedly too well-developed for the judges’ liking. But this didn’t deter her popularity among the general public. She continuously won the annual poll for The Best Woman Bodybuilder in the World from 1979 to 1982, held by Women’s Physique Publication. Regarding her love for muscle building, Kay had once said, “Someone had to stick their neck out for the cause of muscular women, and I’ve got no regrets about that…not one.”

Kay Baxter Died in a Car Crash

After Kay stopped competing in 1986, she made a move toward acting. She also saw success as a fitness trainer with many celebrity clients. But on May 16, 1988, the 42-year-old sadly died in a car crash on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, California. It was reported she was on the wrong side of the road and had a 23-year-old named Neil Axe with her. The vehicle flipped when she tried to avoid hitting an oncoming motorcycle. Neil survived, but she didn’t make it.


In the aftermath, many fondly remember Kay as a trailblazer in female bodybuilding. Bill Dobbins, a fitness writer, said, “Unfortunately, she was ahead of her time and didn’t get the recognition she deserved in terms of winning contests. She really pointed the way to what female bodybuilding was going to become.” At the time of her death, Kay had just finished filming for a martial-arts movie where she played the lead, and then she was inducted into the International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness Hall of Fame posthumously in 2001.

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