Sweat Lodge Survivor Talks About Arrest - NBC 7 San Diego

Sweat Lodge Survivor Talks About Arrest



    Sweat Lodge Survivor Talks About Arrest

    Beverley Bunn, 44, is glad to be alive and happy to hear that her former spiritual guru is behind bars.  "He only wants one thing, money," Bunn said from her Texas home.

    Bunn is an important witness in the case against self-help guru James Arthur Ray.  Ray was arrested Wednesday on three counts of manslaughter for the deaths of some of the participants in his so-called "Spiritual Warrior" retreat last October.

    The motivational speaker and author runs his company, Ray International, out of Carlsbad.

    The Oct. 8 ceremony was intended to be the highlight of Ray's five-day event at a retreat he rented near Sedona. He told participants, who paid more than $9,000 each to attend, that it would be one of the most intense experiences of their lives.

    Participants spent two hours in a cramped sweat lodge ceremony.  More than 50 people were inside the wood crafted tent. About halfway through, some began feeling ill, vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Despite that, Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses and chided those who wanted to leave, authorities and participants have said.

    Three people died. Eighteen others were hospitalized.

    Bunn pushed Arizona authorities to bring charges against Ray for what she called "pure negligence."  Four months later, her wish came true. Ray was arrested in Arizona on Wednesday and charged with three counts of manslaughter.

    "It's kind of like I can't believe it," said Bunn. "There's excitement and there's relief and then there's anger.

    She recalled what happened inside the sweat lodge when she noticed another participant had lost consciousness.

    "Kirby (Brown) was next to me and she passed out,"said Bunn.  "I told James (Ray) she needed help and he said don't worry about it, we'll take care of her later."

    Bunn felt helpless.  "At the time, you are really dealing with yourself and trying to stay alive yourself," she said.

    Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night at a hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., slipped into a coma and died a week later.

    Ray's legal team released the following statement, "The charges are unjust and we will prove it in court. This was a terrible accident - but it was an accident, not a criminal act. James Ray cooperated at every step of the way, providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one could have foreseen this accident. We will now present this evidence in a court of law, and we are confident that Mr. Ray will be exonerated."

    Ray's attorneys have said he took all necessary safety precautions and wasn't aware of any medical problems until the ceremony was over.

    Documents released in the investigation showed that some people lost consciousness and others suffered broken bones at past Ray-led events and that Ray largely ignored medical problems that arose.

    Bunn, said she has no ill feelings toward Ray but is satisfied in knowing he cannot continue his work. "He's going to be brought to justice for what he did, " she said. "His lack of responsibility and negligence to the situation."