AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool
James Arthur Ray, right, and one of his defense attorneys Truc Do, listened to testimony of Ted Mercer, during Ray's criminal trial on April 7, 2011, in Camp Verde, Arizona.

Sweat Lodge Homicides Remorse: James Arthur Ray Says He Was Arrogant


James Arthur Ray, the purported self-help guru who led a "Spiritual Warrior" weekend retreat outside Sedona, Arizona in October 2009 at the tune of nearly $10,000 per participant that claimed three lives and hospitalized 18, is still remorseful, he told CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday, November 25, months after his July 12, 2013, state prison release.

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"If I could trade places with any of the three, James, Kirby or Liz, I would do it," Ray said.

Ray was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide on June 20, 2011, and was sentenced to two years—concurrent sentences for each of the deaths. He was required to fulfill at least 85 percent of the term (20 months) and was ordered to pay $57,000 in restitution to the victims’ families

During the CNN interview, the 56-year-old author and former entrepreneur expressed anguish over his leadership of a sweat lodge ceremony that killed 38-year-old Kirby Brown of Westtown, New York, 40-year old James Shore of Milwaukee, and 49-year-old Lizbeth Marie Neuman of Prior Lake, Minnesota.

"I think the most difficult thing I can ever imagine is investing your entire life in helping people, and then finding them getting hurt," Ray told Morgan. "It's just the antithesis of anything that I had ever stood for or wanted. And so that anguish has continued every single day since that moment."

According to prosecutors, participants in Ray's spiritual retreat suffered dehydration and heatstroke at the hands of Ray's urging them to remain in the sweltering sweat lodge without food or water for hours on end. Participants testified that they were told they would symbolically die and then be reborn in the sweat lodge ritual, CNN reported, and that Ray scolded them to overcome their weakness and stay inside. The 18 people who were hospitalized endured burns, respiratory arrest, kidney failure, loss of consciousness and dehydration. Several witnesses recounted people collapsing, vomiting, violently shaking and experiencing delusions. They contended Ray heard and ignored the concerns.

"Was I arrogant? Yes. I have that characteristic, I can be arrogant," Ray told CNN's Morgan. "And I think there's a lot of hubris that comes in my former business. You know, people flying all over the world and asking me how to have a better life," he said. "It tends to go to your head. You know? You tend to think you've got all the answers, and so you get humbled."

Under his sentence, Ray is not barred from conducting self-help seminars or sweat lodge ceremonies. Family members of the victims have promised to monitor Ray should he try to reestablish his empire, CNN reported, but Ray says he has no intentions of trying to salvage his self-help business.

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Tatanka Oyate's picture
Tatanka Oyate
Submitted by Tatanka Oyate on
You should never pay money to sweat, especially 10,000 dollars, that's ridiculous.

Maria Teresa Valenzuela's picture
Maria Teresa Va...
Submitted by Maria Teresa Va... on
I strongly feel his sentence should have being many more years....How about again the victims and the families. I do hope the families very seriously do moniter this false healer. No real sweatlodge guide WOULD EVERY DEMAND PEOPLE TO REMAIN IN THE SWEATLODGE FOR HOURS.!!!!!!

pissedoffnativeamericanwoman's picture
Submitted by pissedoffnative... on
This is what happens when non-natives steal beliefs that do not belong to them and try to milk these ways as a cash cow--for all it's worth. Who in the hell charges 10K for prayers to the creator? IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
He needs to be locked up in a mental institution for the criminally insane, not in jail. This is nothing more than a criminal act of self indulgence, he is no elder, he is a cold blooded, calculated murderer...

Sarah 's picture
Submitted by Sarah on
Have been in many inipi (purification )ceremonies. This person is a definite imposter and which nationality is he a part of. We do not charge people to participate in ceremony. I agree, it must have been quite a humbling experience. Condolences to those who lost their lives. Such a tragedy. We have ceremonial protocols. His man had none. Unbelievable.

Edgardo Cafisse's picture
Edgardo Cafisse
Submitted by Edgardo Cafisse on
These people that self proclaim to be healers ,shamans or whatever else are only fake and liers especially when they ask for money ; this is SO DISRESPECTFUL AND OUTRAGEOUS. In the meantime nobody should ever pay for partecipating in any kind of Ceremony.... Too sad for their victims.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Sweat Lodge Homicide awesome name for a native metal band

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Well someone, wasn't to bright, were they. That guy is stealing the spirituality of the Native American Indians. They were struck down...That should be a warning to all of you. That the creator wasn't happy with them, or their ways. And he is coming for you next. The power of the spirits. should not be ignored or mocked. If you don't know what, you are doing, Stay out of the Kitchen. Ha ha ha $10.000 a session. More money than sense. Good There are 500,000,000 more White people in America that need to follow in their footsteps. Steamed white meat...

chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
halito hes not a DAMN bit 'remorse-full' and like all white people who steal OUR native ceremonies, would sell another and another 'sweat' ceremony to gullible people in a minute... dont non native people on this rock have enough 'ceremony' in all their various and sundry religious practices....they dont need to be stealing ours....

Daynise's picture
Submitted by Daynise on
this story really upsets me because i been in a position like this first hand but it was Lakota's doing it. They are selling their own ceremonies on pine ridge. was with a group for 13 years. they called the $365 plus bunch of random fees for sundance "donation". I am fighting for my life now from bad water given on purpose by this "medicine man". I didn't know any better. I just wanted to be a part of something real and got taken advantage of but that's ok because the truth is going to come out about all these plastic shamans. May have hurt my body, but never touched my soul.