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home : features : crime & emergency September 14, 2014


10/15/2009 4:43:00 PM
Sweat lodge deaths now a homicide case; Deputies search Ray's California headquarters
Sheriff Steve Waugh:
Sheriff Steve Waugh: "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."
By Lisa Irish
Special to verdenews.com

PRESCOTT -- 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 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.

Waugh said YCSO would like all participants who have knowledge of the Spiritual Warrior seminar at Angel Valley Retreat, or who have experienced something similar, to contact the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office by e-mail at www.ycsoaz.gov or Yavapai Silent Witness 1-800-939-3232.

Waugh said investigators will focus on Ray, who is a person of interest, and any other person whose actions may have played a role in the deaths of James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, New York.

"Right now there is no other person identified in that particular area yet, but the investigation is still young," Waugh said.

Ray refuses to talk with investigators, Waugh said. According to Associated Press reports, Ray has hired his own team of investigators. Waugh said Ray's investigators talked with YCSO investigators yesterday, but he could not divulge what was said.

Ray had a conference call Wednesday with many of the sweat lodge participants where he stressed the importance of eating healthy, resting, and being around "like-minded individuals," the Associated Press reports.

YCSO detectives executed search warrants Wednesday at James Ray International's offices in Carlsbad, Calif., with help from Carlsbad Police Department officers, Waugh said. Ray was not present when the search warrant was executed, said Lt. David Rhodes, of the criminal investigation bureau of the YCSO.

"Detectives, when they exercised that search warrant, were looking for medical information on participants of the current Spiritual Warrior event and also other previous events," Waugh said. "We're also trying to determine if documentation exists on how to construct sweat lodges, and the proper use of those lodges, and additionally, documentation on whether participants are advised of the risks prior to or during the Spiritual Warrior program," Waugh said.

"Because the deaths of James Shore and Kirby Brown were not accidental, we have, as I said earlier, started a full criminal investigation," Waugh said.

"People have become very sick from these activities before, so there should have been some preparation for these responses," Waugh said.

Waugh said he hopes people will be more careful about attending these types of seminars in the future.

Shore and Brown were pronounced dead Oct. 8 at Verde Valley Medical Center after they had been inside a sweat lodge during Ray's "Spiritual Warrior" seminar at the Angel Valley Retreat. Nineteen other people suffered injuries and one participant remains in critical condition at Flagstaff Medical Center, Waugh said.

The sweat lodge, was a temporary structure, with a frame of juniper and oak and covered with many layers of blankets, comforters and tarps, Waugh said. The floor area of the lodge was 415 square feet. It was just 53 inches high in the center, and 30 inches high on the edges, Waugh said. Fifty to 60 people were in the lodge during the ceremony, Waugh said.



Related Stories:
• Third person dies after sweat-lodge incident
• Letter: Total lack of respect of Native American cultures
• Teamwork: Verde Valley Fire talks about Angel Valley rescue
• Editorial: Worst-case scenario turned into best-case coordination
• Investigators seek answers in deaths, illness during sweat lodge ceremony
• Two die, 19 ill in sweat lodge incident


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, October 16, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

From what I understand the participants were off to a vision quest for 2 days with no food OR water prior to entering the sweatlodge. It stands to reason that even if they had had water at the end of their Vision Quest they could still have been seriously dehydrated. Entering a 2 hour sweat without a break would have been a serious stressor to the physical body- obviously more to some than others....

Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Article comment by: GINI GOLDIE

I am frankly amazed that something of the magnitude of the Angel Fire tragedy hasn't happened before. When we take a spiritual quest out of context of the culture it was "stolen" from and transform it into something that is for profit,why should anyone be surprised. As an artist and also an anthropologist, I do not use even images from other cultures' spiritual history. These images and rituals are very powerful and are kept by shamans and religious leaders and shared only at appropriate times. When taken out of context there is always danger. How arrogant Western cultures are when they just take over bits and pieces of other people's cultures that have been nurtured for generations upon generations within appropriate boundaries. I grieve for the people that died or were seriously injured at the “sweat lodge”. Within cultural parameters of the cultures that developed them, they have great meaning. But I certainly hope that others will trust their own spiritual core beliefs and not feel they have to find a "leader" to follow. If, however, they are invited to participate in another culture's spiritual quest, by being respectful of these traditions we can bring much healing and peace to the world.



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