Mindy McCready

Mindy McCready's life story reads like a country music song.

At 18, Mindy left her childhood home in Florida and headed to Nashville armed with a few karaoke tapes and a dream. After just a year, Mindy scored a big-time record deal, recording "Guys Do It All the Time" on her debut album, Ten Thousand Angels. But three years after being crowned country music's new sweetheart—some even dubbing her "the next Shania Twain"—Mindy's life began to unravel.

She lost her record deal and ended a rocky engagement to Lois & Clark heartthrob Dean Cain. In just the past year, Mindy has made headlines for multiple run-ins with the law. She's been arrested for DUI, prescription drug fraud, and involvement with an alleged con artist. In May, Mindy says she was nearly beaten to death by her boyfriend, Billy McKnight.
Mindy in her home. Inset: Billy's mug shot

It's not uncommon. In fact, experts say a woman is beaten every nine seconds in the United States.

According to the police affidavit, McCready's boyfriend, Billy McKnight, entered her home through the garage. "He came up behind me and said, 'You're not going to make a fool of me, and you're not going to go out with other guys in Nashville. I'm going to kill you,'" Mindy recalls. "He had a crazed and wild look in his eye that I have never seen him have before."

Terrified of what Billy would do next, Mindy says she tried to lock herself in her bedroom. Seconds later, Mindy says, Billy broke down the door. She alleges that Billy then grabbed her by the hair, smashed her head against her bed's headboard and hit her in the face. "When he hit my nose, it exploded because I could see my blood on his face," Mindy says. "I tried to get off of the bed and that's when he grabbed me by my throat and picked me up in the air by my throat. The pressure was so hard I thought that at any moment I was going to lose consciousness."

When Billy stumbled on a bedspread, Mindy says, she saw a chance to escape, but Billy chased her. "He kind of tackled me, and as I hit the floor, I couldn't catch my breath because he had fallen on me. I was gurgling on blood, I was trying to cough it out and I lay there crying and he got up and looked down at me."

Mindy says that Billy apologized for what he had done, then picked her up off the floor, laid her on a couch and left. "I lay there for a while thinking he was going to come back and help me," Mindy says. "He never came back. As long as I live, I will never get over it. I will never forget it. And I will forever be haunted by it."

After the police arrived, Billy McKnight was arrested and charged with attempted murder. He posted bond and now awaits trial.
Mindy McCready

Mindy says that this was the worst Billy had ever beaten her before, but admits this was not the first time he'd done it. Mindy wasn't surprised that Billy was beating her, she says, but "was surprised by the severity."

When Mindy finally went to the emergency room, doctors classified her injuries as severe because of the dangerous injuries to her throat.
Mindy McCready

Mindy says she had been to the emergency room on two prior occasions because of Billy's abuse. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I didn't want to go [again]. I didn't want anybody to know. … I thought, 'Oh, my gosh. What are these people going to think of me coming in there again?' Everybody in my whole life, every time I called and told them about the situation, was just like, 'Mindy, why are you involved with this? Why don't you get out of this relationship? Why don't you do something?'"
Mindy McCready

Just a few months after her alleged near-fatal beating incident, Billy and Mindy were back together long enough for her to become pregnant with his child.

"I got pregnant on the Fourth of July," Mindy says. Though they aren't really supposed to see each other, Mindy reluctantly admits that she and Billy have "seen each other several times since then."

Mindy says that she did not get pregnant intentionally. "I definitely didn't plan this. I'm happy about it now, but I was very scared [because] this relationship has been the way that it's been."
Mindy McCready and Oprah Winfrey

Despite the violent abuse she says she has received from Billy, Mindy does not have plans to completely give up on their relationship. "I was with him for a year and a couple months before this all happened and it was the most tumultuous relationship of my entire life," she says. "But I really, truly loved him and each time that he would do something horrible to me, I would go to save him after the incident."

"Let me just stop you right there because you are so many women," Oprah interrupts. "You really, truly loved somebody that would leave you gurgling in your own blood? You really, truly do? I would have to question that."

Mindy then tells Oprah that she loves Billy more than she loves herself. "So you don't want to give up on him," Oprah says, "even though not giving up on him means, literally, that you're giving up on yourself?"
Mindy McCready

Since the beating that left her close to death, Mindy has attempted to take her own life twice. The first suicide attempt occurred after she spent time with Billy over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Mindy says she was disappointed by his lack of remorse and swallowed pills and a bottle of wine. "It wasn't my intention to kill myself in the beginning of it," she explains. "However, when I started feeling the effects of the medication, I wrote a suicide note which I don't even remember writing."

Oprah reads from the note: "To everyone I love, I'm sorry. I know how selfish this seems, but I can't take any more pain. Billy is precious to me. Billy is the person in this world I've loved the most, and he's convinced me how truly horrible I am. I gave all of myself in every way to him, but he says I've done nothing but destroy his life and family. I never wanted anyone to know what happened when he hit me. I sincerely tried to fix it, but I failed."

"I actually felt really bad for him and really bad for his family," Mindy explains. "He kept saying, 'I wanted to have a career in music and now I'm not ever going to.' I kept saying, 'Well, if you were truly sorry for what you'd done, everybody makes mistakes. People are for the most part forgiving. They would probably forgive you.' But he wasn't sorry and you can't pretend to be that way."
Dr. Robin Smith

Psychotherapist Dr. Robin Smith says that Mindy is in deadly denial. "You're sitting here right now trying to hold onto a dream that is about to take your life," Dr. Robin tells Mindy. "Not only is that serious, but now you're carrying a life. It's not just your life now that's on the line, but it's the life of your unborn child.

"Love doesn't ever batter. Love doesn't ever demean. Love doesn't strip people of their well-being and their hope. Love doesn't do that."

"Love isn't painful," Oprah agrees. "I think people often think, 'The more pain I go through, the deeper the love.' Love doesn't hurt."

"Part of breaking the lie for yourself is—even if you have been telling yourself that you love him—I want you to know today you don't love him," Dr. Robin says. "Now, you may not know that yet, and it might scare you to not love him because you don't quite know who you are. See, that's what abusers do—they start defining who you are and you think you're nothing without him. That's a lie."
Mindy McCready

"I was definitely fine before [I met Billy]," Mindy says.

"Wait a minute," Dr. Robin interrupts. "You actually weren't fine before. You may not have been in this kind of shape, but the ground had to be fertile for this kind of abuse to land in your life and stay. People can come into our lives and be horrible. But you meet them and you think, 'Hmm, that's bad news.' When we let them sit at the table, sleep in the bed, move into the house, share meals with them—that means somewhere your own sense of value and worth was already compromised."

Mindy nods her head and has a revelation. "Compared to Billy, there is only one pain in my life that I can recall that has been as or more severe, and that has been my relationship struggles with my mother."

Mindy's mother, Gayle, sent The Oprah Winfrey Show a statement saying, "Words cannot describe how much I love my daughter. I will always be here for her."

Mindy smiles bitterly and says, "If you only knew how she was there for me. My mom is a rough lady to describe to people. When I was younger, a certain instance in my life always comes back—I remember driving in the car. I was probably about 11 years old. I looked at her and I said, 'I'm going to be a famous singer one day.' She looked over at me and she said, 'Mindy, you need to have something else to fall back on. … I think that you're a good singer, but you're not great.' I said, 'But I'm going to be great.' She said, 'I doubt it.' That just killed me. That is how it has been my whole life."
Tim McCready

Tim McCready is Mindy's father. "We all love you more than anything," he tells his daughter. "We want you to find yourself. We want you to heal and be everything that you wanted to be."

Seeing a child hurt is a painful experience for a parent, he says. "It kind of takes you apart from the inside because you feel so helpless. It makes you think, 'What could I say? What could I have done?' There's really nothing you can [say or do]. It hurts deep."
Dr. Robin tells Mindy to get professional help.

"The bottom line here is very simple," Dr. Robin says. "You must go and get help. … It's deep because the wounds started very early on. For you to give yourself a chance and your child, to break the cycle of abuse, … you've got to get some professional help. Use that energy that you've been using trying to hold your world together with Billy to begin to build a real life for you and your child."

"If you break up with him," Oprah warns Mindy, "this will come back to you wearing a different pair of pants—unless you fix you."
Mindy McCready and Oprah Winfrey

Mindy says she hopes that by appearing on the show she'll save other women from abuse. "I feel like I have been put on this earth to talk about things like this, because I'm willing and a lot of people [aren't]. As much as it hurts and as much as it's embarrassing and as much as it's things that we don't want to talk about, I feel a sense of duty to do so because I love other people—it's the whole reason I sing. If I can help one girl…"

"You know what we're all hoping?" Oprah says to Mindy. "That you are that girl."