A thrilling crime drama film at its core, Lifetime’s ‘Would You Kill for Me? The Mary Bailey Story’ explores complex family dynamics from three different perspectives. Directed by Simone Stock with help from writer Gregg McBride, this film is about three generations of women, Ella, Veronica, and Mary, and how they deal with an abuser within the family. Ella has to come to terms with her daughter Veronica’s drunk and abusive husband, Willard, who is also Mary’s stepfather.
One fine day, things go too far, which results in Willard’s murder. This brings on an intense blame game with 11-year-old Mary at the center of the chaos, trying to make sense of her involvement in the situation. Melissa Joan Hart, Presley Allard, and Olivia Scriven star in this sensational crime drama, which is, in fact, based on the true story of Mary Elizabeth Bailey. The latter has actually revealed details of this 1987 incident in her memoir ‘My Mother’s Soldier,’ released in 2020.
The Real Story of Mary Elizabeth Bailey Revealed
Mary Bailey was born to Priscilla Wyers when she was just 16. Priscilla’s name has been changed to Veronica for the movie adaptation since that is what Mary addressed her as in her memoir since she hadn’t truly forgiven her mother at the time. Mary never knew her biological father because he was already a married man when he began his involvement with Priscilla and conceived a baby, only for them to reconnect decades later – years after the incident. Priscilla’s life was thus as complicated as it sounds, which is why Mary was grateful that she got to live peacefully with her loving grandparents in the initial years of her life, that is, until her grandfather’s death in 1981 from black lung disease.
By this point, Priscilla was married to Wayne Wyers, who the family claimed was an alcoholic and abusive; plus, she’d had three other children apart from Mary. Since Priscilla needed her mother’s help to take care of these children, she as well as Mary were forced to move in with the couple, to a place that Mary remembers as the “house of horror.” She recalled how Wayne was always angry and abusive and made sure to let her know she wasn’t welcome in their house since she wasn’t his biological daughter. She has also claimed she and her siblings were physically beaten with belts for misbehaving many times, not just by Wayne but also by Priscilla herself. In all this negativity, young Mary’s only hope came in the form of a local pastor who helped her get close to the Church and God.
Soon, the fateful day arrived that would change their lives forever. Wayne was always loud and abusive, but when Priscilla lent his jeep to someone who ran it off the road, he became a lot angrier. Mary saw her grandmother get slapped so hard by him that she nearly lost her hearing. She also saw her mother getting threatened with a butcher’s knife by Wayne before he passed out on a chair. Recalling this time, Mary remembers many such similar instances before this where Priscilla tried hard to run away from Wayne, but he kept finding her and reportedly threatened to kill her on multiple occasions. And on that day, when he was passed out on the chair, Priscilla allegedly asked Mary to kill Wayne with a rifle of .22 calibre.
While it seems unbelievable that a mother would put her child in that position, Mary remembers that Priscilla was very scared at the point, and believed that if Mary killed Wayne, nothing would happen to her because of her age, and they would all be able to leave the man behind and live their lives. She has since forgiven her mother, especially after she completed writing her memoir, which gave her a lot of closure. But what actually happened that day was way more traumatic, with an 11-year-old child trying to protest against her mother but knowing that she had no choice but to follow Priscilla’s instructions.
With a rifle in her hand, Mary recalled the horror of having to cross the hallway thrice because the safety was on and the gun didn’t work the first few times. She also couldn’t go through with shooting him in the head like her mother instructed, but instead finally shot her stepfather in the abdomen, which eventually slowly killed him. This was just the beginning of the horror story since her mother, who called 911 and initially took the blame, later put everything on Mary and insisted that she acted on her own when she killed Wayne. Thankfully, an investigation was conducted, and both Priscilla and Mary were charged with murder.
While Priscilla served her sentence, the charges against Mary were dropped for agreeing to testify against her mother, and she was sent to foster care without a family and no one to adopt her. But she found it hard to forgive Priscilla for a long time, who kept wanting Mary to take all the blame so she could get out scot-free. Ultimately, as the story draws inspiration from such a traumatic event, writer McBride met Mary to make sure the events were factual. But she understands that filmmakers need to take some creative liberties to tell a story, and she feels satisfied with the narrative as long as the story makes an impact on people.