Self-help guru James Arthur Ray was arrested Wednesday in Arizona on manslaughter charges in the deaths of three people during a sweat lodge ceremony.
Ray was being held on $5 million bond at a sheriff’s station in Prescott awaiting transfer to the Camp Verde Detention Center, according to a statement by Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh.
“Sheriff Waugh would like to thank the victim s families for their patience while the Sheriff s Office completed a thorough and comprehensive investigation,” the statement says. “With the arrest of James Ray, Sheriff Waugh hopes the families of the three victims will now have some measure of closure to this tragedy.”
Ray was arrested without incident at his attorney’s office in Prescott.
The “cleansing” ceremony led by Ray at the Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona ended in the deaths of participants Kirby Brown, 38, James Shore, 40, and Liz Neuman, 49, and injuries to 18 others.
During the “Spiritual Warrior” five-day retreat, for which Ray charged approximately $9,000, participants were pushed to their spiritual and physical limits by fasting for 36 hours and cramming into a 415-square foot, sauna-like hut – essentially a wood frame covered in tarps and blankets. People were passing out and vomiting, but still urged to stay inside the sweat lodge.
After the deaths, Ray, the author of Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want, expressed sorrow but continued with his work, saying, “I, too, want to know what happened that caused this horrible tragedy.”
FROM 2009: Deaths in the Desert
Ray s attorney, Luis Li, issued a statement Wednesday saying the charges shouldn t have been filed. Ray s initial court appearance is scheduled for Thursday in Camp Verde Superior Court sometime after 8 a.m.
“The charges are unjust and we will prove it in court,” the statement says. “This was a terrible accident but it was an accident, not a criminal act. 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. We will now present this evidence in a court of law, and we are confident that Mr. Ray will be exonerated.”
• Reporting by HOWARD BREUER