true crime

When Mary was 11, her mum wanted her husband dead. So she handed Mary a gun.

This story mentions domestic abuse, child abuse and murder.

Mary Elizabeth Bailey was only 11 years old when her mother, Priscilla Wyers, placed a rifle in her hands. 

Priscilla begged her daughter to shoot her abusive stepfather, Wayne Wyers, in their West Virginia home in 1987. 

"If you do this... it will all be over. You're not gonna go to jail, you're too young," she told her daughter. Mary pleaded with her mother, but she insisted: "I need you to save me."

Mary, who had experienced abuse from both her stepfather and mother since the age of four, stood in front of the 29-year-old Wyers, who was drunk and passed out in a chair, pointed the gun at his stomach (she couldn't bear shooting him in the head like her mother suggested) and pulled the trigger – not once, but three times.

Decades later, Mary, now 47, recounted her horrific experience to US publications, and penned her memoir My Mother's Solider in 2020, which Lifetime adapted into a movie, Would You Kill for Me: The Mary Bailey Story, starring Melissa Joan Hart.

"My heart was pounding," she told People magazine. "It felt like it took forever to get to the living room... I remember every detail. I remember the shock... I remember when the fire came out of the end of it."

Watch: The official trailer of Would You Kill for Me: The Mary Bailey Story. Post continues after video.

Video via YouTube/Lifetime.

Mary grew up in a 'house of horrors'. 

Her childhood home was never a sanctuary, but the violence that led to her stepfather's death came to a head on February 24, 1987. Wayne was out on a trucking job and Priscilla lent his vehicle to a friend, who crashed it on an icy road. Enraged, Wayne beat his wife repeatedly over several days and held a knife to her throat. He hit Mary's grandmother on the side of her head, causing irreversible hearing loss to her left ear. He also threatened his infant son.

"The baby's crying and it's scary, and he's got a knife," Mary told A&E. "'I'm going to watch this man murder my brother.'" 

Wayne said to Priscilla, "I'm going to kill you" – before passing out.

Shortly after this violent episode, Priscilla handed her daughter a gun and gave her the instruction to shoot her own stepfather. Mary followed her mother's command, shooting Wayne in the stomach. He died two hours later in hospital.

When the case went to count, the prosecution argued that, despite the regular abuse Wayne inflicted on everyone in the house, the fact that he was passed out when he was shot made him no threat at the time of his death. 

Priscilla called 911 telling them she'd shot her husband in an act of self-defence, however when the police arrived at their home, her mother (who Mary called Veronica in her memoir, because she says she does not view her as her mother) changed her story and said the shooting was all Mary's idea. 


Attempting to use her daughter didn't get her off the hook as she planned, though. Both were charged with murder. Mary's charges were later dropped after she testified against her mother at her attorney's recommendation.

Priscilla was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1988 and was sentenced to life in prison. Mary, meanwhile, was placed in foster care where she remained until she was 17. She threw herself into her studies and the sports she loved playing, and went to therapy every day.

Over the years, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Mary had little to no contact with her mother.

Priscilla reached out to Mary in 1998 to ask her daughter to testify on her behalf at a parole hearing – which she did. Mary told the parole board, "I would like to have my mother back."

Priscilla was released and Mary tried to help her mother adjust to life on the outside, but it was not the reunion Mary hoped for. Eager for a fresh start, Mary moved to North Carolina where she still lives with her husband today. 

After her memoir was published in 2020, Mary received a letter from her mother.

She wrote, "I wanted you to know that you were loved... I'm sorry."

Mary called her and told her she forgave her. The pair reunited in person in 2022, spending Mother's Day together. It turned out to be timely – Priscilla had cancer and passed away in August of that year.

"It feels like it was all just meant to be," Mary told People. "We were able to talk and work through some things, which I'm glad we did, because she did die a few short months later," she said.


It's no secret that the mother-daughter relationship was strained. Priscilla was 16 years old when she gave birth to Mary and promptly passed her newborn onto her parents to raise. After her father died, Priscilla begged her mother to move into her home to help her with bills and look after the children. Mary's grandmother bore witness to unspeakable abuse – including the abuse Priscilla inflicted on Mary.

"One of the worst beatings I got was from her," said Mary. "My baby brother was crying, and she said. 'Just leave him alone. Let him cry.' I said, 'He just wants me to hold him.'" Priscilla then grabbed a belt. "She swung it buckle-end. It hit my cheekbone, and it broke," said Mary.

Her life was forever changed after that fateful day in 1987, but today, Mary is married to an attorney, studied nursing and runs a successful medical uniform business with her husband.

Reflecting on the Lifetime movie, Mary told People, "Watching it came full circle for me. But it's very emotional. But watching it and knowing that other people, hopefully, millions of people, will be watching this and be able to relate to this and to find some hope, some healing through this movie. I mean, it's really good, and very excited about it. So that's mainly the focus, is healing and hope for others."

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Feature image: Instagram/@mymotherssoldier