Oct 11, 2009

Police Investigate Sweat Lodge Deaths

Washington Post, Nation Digest, 
October 11, 2009

Sedona, AZ (AP) - A sauna-like sweat lodge at an Arizona resort meant to provide spiritual cleansing has become the focus of a police investigation after two people died during a retreat hosted by a self-help expert.

James Shore of Wisconsin and Kirby Brown of New York died Thursday night after being overcome during a two-hour session in the sweat lodge. Nineteen others were taken to area hospitals. One remained in critical condition on Saturday.

Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh said Saturday his detectives are focusing on James Arthur Ray, a self-help expert and author, and his staff as they try to determine if criminal negligence played a role in the deaths. No charges have been filed.

Ray's spokesman expressed condolences Friday but would not talk specifically about the deaths.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the deaths and illnesses but have ruled out carbon monoxide poisoning. The incident happened at the Angel Valley Retreat Center, just outside Sedona.

Ray rented the facility as part of a five-day retreat that promised to "absolutely change your life."