James Arthur Ray In Court Facing 3 Manslaughter Charges for Fatal Sweat Lodge Disaster

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Jurors heard opening arguments Tuesday in the trial of a self-help guru whose sweat lodge ceremony turned deadly in October, 2009.

James Arthur Ray is facing three manslaughter charges after three people died due to the ceremony’s extreme heat.

James Arthur Ray’s defense attorney Luis Li claimed law enforcement never followed up on reports that the participants had toxic substance in their bodies, and that the participants were never forced to stay.

The incidences of fatal heat stroke and heat illnesses were the result of five-day “Spiritual Warrior” retreat in Sedona, Arizona, on October 8, 2009. Two people died during the ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center. A third person died nine days later. At least 15 others also suffered heat illness.

Sedona is a city that straddles the county line between Coconino and Yavapai counties in the northern Verde Valley region of northeast Arizona. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 11,220.

Sedona’s main attraction is its stunning array of red sandstone formations, known as the Red Rocks of Sedona. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The Red Rocks form a breathtaking backdrop for spiritual pursuits, hiking trips and mountain biking trips.