Sweat Lodge Ceremony Deaths Ruled Homicides

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Authorities are now calling a spiritual sweat lodge ceremony that killed three people in Sedona, Ariz., a homicide.

Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray was at the center of the ceremony that promised spiritual rebirth but ended in tragedy.

"We had actually been under the leadership of James Ray for four to five days," said participant Beverly Bunn. "We trusted him. We trusted what he was teaching us."

Bunn was one of 50 participants who crowded into the dark sweat lodge for the the two-hour ceremony around burning rocks.

"When everybody was actually throwing up, that was considered your body purging its toxins and getting rid of what we don't need or the bad things that were inside," she recalled.

She says the self-help guru stood guard at the tent's only entrance and did nothing to help those who became ill-- 21 people were hospitalized.

Three of them died, including 38-year-old Kirby Brown who was Bunn's roommate.

"These were astronomical people I was with. There are a lot of over-achievers, highly successful people that pushed themselves," she said. "Them, like myself, we just believed that we could go through this."

Participants paid $9,000 to attend the retreat. Sidney is now suing Ray for millions.

"Mr. Ray created a death trap," she said. "And created a heat environment in that sweat lodge that was intolerable for human beings."

"After the incident and after everything happened, Rames Ray pretty much abandoned all of us," Bunn added.

Ray isn't talking, but tells followers on his Web site that he feels their pain, determined to continue with his self help work and investigating what went wrong.

Police say they are also investigating what could be multiple homicides


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CBN News
Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.