February 4, 2010 in Nation/World

Sweat lodge speaker arrested

Felicia Fonseca Associated Press
 

Ray
(Full-size photo)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray was arrested Wednesday on manslaughter charges after three people died following a northern Arizona sweat lodge ceremony he led last year.

Ray was taken into custody on an indictment at his attorney’s office in Prescott and later led into the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde. His bond was set at $5 million, and his first court hearing was scheduled for today.

“This was a terrible accident, but it was an accident, not a criminal act,” Ray attorney Luis Li said. “James Ray cooperated at every step of the way, providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one could have foreseen this accident.”

The Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony was part of Ray’s five-day “Spiritual Warrior” event at a retreat he rented near Sedona. He told participants, who paid more than $9,000 each to attend, that it would be one of the most intense experiences of their lives.

About halfway through the two-hour ceremony, some began feeling ill, vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Despite that, Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses, authorities and participants have said.

Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night at a hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., slipped into a coma and died a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized.

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