San Diego - A Scripps Ranch couple spoke to 10News about the time they spent with a Carlsbad-based self-help guru accused in the deaths of three people at an Arizona sweat lodge last year.
Two-and-a-half years before three people died at that ill-fated sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona, Connie and Richard Joy hooked up with James Ray, becoming founding members of his World Wealth Society.
The couple already had a successful business, the Joys of Real Estate, and decided they could improve their lives on other levels.
Connie Joy told 10News, "Everybody goes in for different reasons. I personally needed a better connection between body and health and also a tighter spiritual connection."
Ray, she said, was a charismatic man who seemed genuinely interested in the people around him, but he developed a Messiah complex.
"In 2009, it really became all about money and not about the people," Connie Joy said.
The couple said Ray was charging $9,000 or $10,000 per person per seminar and pushing for greater participation.
The Joys said Ray coaxed them into doing things they'd thought impossible.
"We've broken boards with our hands, concrete slabs, arrows, bent rebar with our throats and that's what led to people staying in [a] sweat lodge. All along we're thinking, we can't do this and he's saying, 'Yes, you can.' And every time we succeeded, we proved ourselves wrong and him right," said Connie Joy.
She and her husband endured a sweat lodge ceremony in 2007. No one died then, but many became ill, including Connie.
"The sweat lodge was ridiculously hot for way too long," she said.
Richard Joy added, "All it was was an endurance test. We had no altered conscious state; it was an endurance test and it was a miserable time."
He explained why he was able to stay inside the tent for several hours, "I was able to tolerate a little more. I made sure I was on the edge of the tent and close to the ground, using my head to survive."
Connie Joy has written about their experiences with Ray in a book titled "Tragedy in Sedona: My Life in James Arthur Ray's Inner Circle." It will be published later this summer.
James Ray is awaiting trial on charges of manslaughter for the three deaths last October.
Several lawsuits have also been filed against him.