A self-help author convicted of negligent homicide expressed extreme remorse for the deaths of three people following an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony he led and vowed never to conduct another one, a probation officer wrote in a presentence report obtained by The Associated Press.
James Arthur Ray said he’s hopeful a Yavapai County judge sentences him to probation, while prosecutors say he deserves the maximum nine-year sentence for senselessly robbing three families of their loved ones.
A jury convicted Ray on three counts of negligent homicide in late June, and he’s set to be sentenced Oct. 6 — two days short of the second anniversary of the ceremony that was meant to be the highlight of his weeklong “Spiritual Warrior” retreat near Sedona.
Ray told the probation officer that he was responsible for the sweat lodge but that he is not a threat to society. He said he wanted to apologize to the victims’ families but he hasn’t been allowed to contact them, nor did he think it was appropriate to do so at an earlier time.
“This is horribly tragic,” he said in the report, which hasn’t been released publicly. “I have been holding these events for years. I warn people in advance. I could never have imagined that this type of thing would happen.”
Prosecutors and the victims’ families have said Ray ignored signs that people were in distress, starting about halfway through the two-hour ceremony in a makeshift tent heated with hot stones. When it ended, two participants were dead and a third died more than a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized, yet others emerged with no major problems.
The families of Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y.; James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee; and Liz Neuman, 48, of Prior Lake, Minn., said neither Ray nor his staff contacted them about the deaths.