Family of Sedona sweat lodge victim holding educational summit

CBS-5 News, Arizona/June 6, 2014

By Rebecca Thomas

Ginny Brown's 38-year-old daughter Kirby Brown is one of three people who died during a sweat lodge ceremony, held by self-help guru James Arthur Ray, in Sedona in October of 2009.

"Kirby didn't go there to end her life," said Brown. "She went there to expand her life. We were horrified to find out that after such arduous physical activities, there was no medical support available at that event."

In 2011, Ray was convicted of three counts of negligent homicide for the deaths of Kirby Brown, Liz Neuman and James Shore.

He spent less than two years in an Arizona prison before being released in the summer of 2013.

"His behavior in that sweat lodge made death inevitable and he doesn't seem to understand that," said Brown. "So, not understanding that makes me think he's still dangerous."

That concerns Brown, especially since Ray is back to holding self-help seminars,  including a mentoring session in Scottsdale this August, at $300 to $500 a person.

"Don't make assumptions that the other person necessarily has your best interests at heart, especially if they're at the top of the guru food chain and they're making tons and tons of money," Brown warned.

She and her family are working to inform the public about the unregulated self-help industry through their non-profit SEEK Safely.

SEEK stands for "Self-Help Empowerment through Education and Knowledge."

The organization encourages people to be discerning and ask questions.

"It never occurred to me that someone would get up on stage in front of hundreds of people and lie about their background, training and experience," Brown explained. "But, that happens."

SEEK Safely is asking self-help practitioners and consumers to sign a promise, to promote a standard of ethics and safety.

"If we can have some influence in bringing more safety to this industry, then Kirby's death will not have been in vain," Brown said.

SEEK Safely is holding an educational summit in Sedona on Friday, June 6, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hampton Inn in Sedona.

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