Sweat lodge deaths now a homicide case: Sheriff says deaths “not accidental”

Deputies search Ray’s California headquarters

The investigation into the two deaths and numerous injuries that occurred during a James Arthur Ray “Spiritual Warrior” seminar at the Angel Valley Retreat near Sedona has turned from a death investigation into a homicide investigation, said Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh said.

“Because of information that we have obtained from interviews from participants in this most recent “Spiritual Warrior” seminar and from other past participants in them, we have elevated the investigation from an accidental death investigation to a homicide investigation,” Waugh said.

Sheriff’s detectives executed search warrants earlier this week at James Ray International’s offices in Carlsbad, Calif., with help from Carlsbad Police Department officers, Waugh said.

– Source / Full Story: Sweat lodge deaths now a homicide case, Lisa Irish, The Daily Courier, Oct. 15, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

A search warrant was executed Wednesday at the James Ray International offices in Carlsbad, California, the sheriff said.

Authorities were attempting to determine whether documents exist on how to construct sweat lodges and on their proper use, as well as documents showing whether participants were advised of the risks of sweat lodges either before or during the program. They also were searching for rosters from past events, Waugh said.

Police would not say what, if anything, was found in executing the search warrant.

Asked why the deaths have been classified as homicides and the investigation upgraded, Waugh said, “We believe there are indications that it was not accidental, and … we feel that there should be some culpability on some individuals.”

Those individuals could include Ray and possibly others, he said.

The owners of the resort built the sweat lodge, Waugh said, under Ray’s direction. A nurse on Ray’s staff was present during the event, police have said.

On Tuesday, Ray said he has hired his own investigators to determine what happened at his Arizona retreat, located in a secluded valley 20 minutes from Sedona. “I have no idea what happened. We’ll figure it out,” Ray said. “I’ve lost people I love and really care about.”

– Source / Full Story: Sweat lodge deaths investigated as homicides, CNN, Oct. 15, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray held a telephone conference call with many of the participants in a sweat lodge ceremony that left two people dead, according to people on the call who provided a transcript to The Associated Press on Thursday.

In the call Wednesday, Ray stressed the importance of eating healthy food, exercising, resting, meditation and surrounding themselves with “like-minded individuals.”

“Remember all that we’ve learned and experienced and knowing by law of the universe that out of every apparent chaos comes a greater state of order, an order that never existed prior to the chaos,” he said, after asking those on the conference call to imagine themselves standing in a prayer circle.

Ray said he used the call as a way to provide closure to those attending his five-day “Spiritual Warrior” retreat outside Sedona, according to the transcript. Ray’s spokesman, Howard Bragman, confirmed the telephone conference was held.

– Source / Full Story: Sheriff says sweat lodge deaths “not accidental”, Felicia Fonseca, AP, Oct. 15, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 16, 2009.
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