A Look at Self-Help Guru James Ray's Tents: Sweat Lodge Trial Starts

PHOTO James Ray faces manslaughter charges in the death of three participants in a sweat lodge he ran. He has pleaded not guilty.
Share
Copy

Opening arguments are expected to begin today in the trial of James Ray, the self-help guru who is charged with manslaughter after three of his followers died during a sweat lodge ceremony in Arizona.

In October 2009, dozens of people crammed into a 415-square-foot hut heated with red-hot rocks.

Ray, a charismatic guru told his followers it would be a "re-birthing" but it turned out to be a fatal experience instead for three people. Ray, 53, is charged with three counts of manslaughter in his Yavapai County Superior Court trial.

For the first time, ABC News has obtained never before seen up-close photos from 2008, after a ceremony in the same sweat lodge used by Ray the following year.

In these 2008 shots, many of the participants are seen sprawled out on the ground.

According to prosecutors, one witness said "20 people got sick. Overheated and throwing up."

One woman in the green shorts is seen vomiting, according to the person who took the pictures.

Sweat lodge participant Mary Latallade says she left her body for six hours and that when she came back, she was violently ill.

"I'm definitely, you know…feel angry. You know, James Ray is ultimately responsible when he runs these seminars," she said. " You do as he says. He plays that paternal role. And he let us know. He's dad and we're his kids and you just follow his lead."

A photo also shows Ray in a t-shirt that reads, "death to death."

While it is true that many of the pictures show people smiling, the participant from whom ABC News licensed these pictures, Cynthia Manner, said some of those smiles are misleading, including hers.

"People would think that everything was fine and it wasn't," Manner said. "There was a lot of distress going on and people needed attendance."

Ray's attorney declined to comment on the pictures.

The prosecution wanted to introduce them at trial to show that Ray knew that he was risking serious injury to the participants of his sweat lodges.

But the judge ruled that they were inadmissible because while they did show some participants getting sick there were no signs that any of these people were close to dying.

Ray has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charges. Ray, who has made millions of dollars telling people how to improve their lives insists he didn't know the people who died in the sweat lodge in Oct. 2009 were so sick.

Last year, in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America," on Feb. 4, 2010, Ray's attorney Brad Brian said Ray didn't force anyone to stay in the sweat lodge.

"The people who participate in these programs were intelligent, professional people," Brian said, "who signed disclaimers, who understood that this was going to be hot. They understood this was going to be difficult."

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...