Victims' families mark 3-year sweat lodge anniversary

CBS 5 News, Arizona/October 8, 2012

It's hard to believe it's been three years since tragedy rocked the Sedona community. On Oct. 8, 2009. James Arthur Ray led his final "Spiritual Warrior" retreat at the Angel Valley resort.

Attendees paid $10,000 to participate and fasted for a day and a half before the retreat's final event, the sweat lodge.

The lodge was a low, circular hut covered with blankets and tarps. Rocks were heated and placed inside with participants for spiritual cleansing.

The sweat lodge went horribly wrong, sending nearly 20 people to the hospital and killing Liz Newman, James Shore and Kirby Brown.

"It's always birthdays and anniversaries and, you know, the last time we saw Kirby. Those dates are always a little bit more difficult than average," said Brown's cousin, Tom McFeeley.

McFeeley said this anniversary has special significance. Right now Ray is behind bars serving the sentence handed down with his three negligent homicide convictions.

"This is the only anniversary he'll serve in prison so I think that gives this day sort of a strange significance," McFeeley said.

Ray was out on bail for the first and second anniversaries and his 600-day sentence will expire before the fourth.

"That's the unfortunate thing is that, you know, there's a guilty count and he will pay for his crimes in prison. I'm afraid the time he spent paying for them is too short but we will try to make him and everyone else in the industry remember this day and remember that the safety and well being of all self-help seekers are really the top priority," McFeeley said.

Brown's family created a non-profit charity in her memory geared toward educating people about the self-help industry.

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