allegedly being responsible for the deaths of three people in a make-shift death tent, snakeoil salesman James Arthur Ray reportedly told participants of his "Spiritual Warrior" self-help retreat near Sedona in 2009 that, when they emerged from the sweat lodge, they will have "faced [their] own death."
He also apparently considers a collection of tarps thrown together to make a tent to be a structure as sacred as the Vatican.
Yesterday, jurors in Ray's manslaughter case heard a 45-minute audio recording of a pre-sweat-lodge pep talk the self-help guru gave to participants of his deadly retreat.
"When you emerge, you will be a different person," Ray says. "Because when you have faced your own death, you've stared [it] in the eyes and overcome, then life is never really the same."
For three participants, Ray sure wasn't kidding.
Ray's been charged with three counts of manslaughter for the October 2009 deaths of three participants of his "Spiritual Warrior" retreat.
According to court documents obtained by New Times, Ray discouraged participants from leaving the sweat lodge, even as some were throwing up and passing out.
One of the victims, 49-year-old Liz Neuman, of Prior Lake, Minnesota, died of multiple-organ failure after the ceremony. The other two victims, 38-year-old Kirby Brown of Westtown, New York, and 40-year-old James Shore of Wisconsin, each fell victim to heat stroke after being in the sweat tent.
Ray maintains that the deaths were a tragic accident, but prosecutors feel that stuffing dozens of people into a hot, poorly ventilated sweat tent -- and then discouraging them from leaving -- is more than just an accident.
Ray's trial is under way. If convicted, Ray faces a sentence of up to 37 years in prison.