Autopsies Released in Sweat Lodge Deaths

This police booking photo released Feb. 3, 2010, shows motivational speaker James Arthur Ray in custody in Yavapai County, Arizona. Yavapai County Sheriff

Two people who were overcome in an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony last year were unconscious when emergency crews arrived, and an autopsy concluded they died of heat stroke upon arrival at a hospital.

Autopsy reports released Tuesday show multi-system organ failure was the cause of death for a third person attending the October ceremony led by motivational speaker James Arthur Ray.

Ray has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter in their deaths and is free on bond.

Read more about Ray's arrest

According to the autopsy reports, 38-year-old Kirby Brown of Westtown, N.Y., and 40-year-old James Shore of Milwaukee died of heat stroke. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., died after more than a week in the hospital from multi-organ failure due to hyperthermia from prolonged sweat lodge exposure, the reports show.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow ordered the first and last pages of the reports released during a hearing Tuesday in Camp Verde. He ordered that the autopsy photographs be withheld.

Darrow also set a trial date for Aug. 31 and allotted 56 days for the jury trial. A status conference is scheduled for April 26.

Ray has built a multimillion-dollar empire as a self-help superstar who teaches people about financial and spiritual wealth. He gained popularity after appearing in the 2006 Rhonda Byrne documentary "The Secret," which he promoted on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Larry King Live."

The Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony was intended to be the highlight of Ray's five-day "Spiritual Warrior" event at a retreat he rented near Sedona.

About halfway through the two-hour ceremony, some participants began feeling ill, vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Authorities allege that despite that, Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses and chided those who wanted to leave.

Nearly 60 people were packed into a crowded tent in scorching heat for two hours, reports "Early Show" national correspondent Hattie Kauffman. Ray reportedly was unconcerned when some passed out. According to witness statements, instead of calling for medical aid, Ray responded, "It's a good day to die." Three did, and 18 were hospitalized.

One participant, Beverley Bunn, previously told The Associated Press that Ray did nothing to help the sick. Ray's attorneys have countered that he took all necessary safety precautions and wasn't aware of any medical problems until the ceremony was over.

In an October 23 interview, Bunn told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith, "We never saw James Ray ever again and he's never contacted any of us."

Ray's attorneys have said he took all necessary safety precautions and wasn't aware of any medical problems until the ceremony was over.

In the weeks after the deaths, lawsuits accused Ray and the owners of the Angel Valley Retreat Center where the sweat lodge was held of negligence and fraud. Ray's publisher postponed two book releases, and Ray canceled his appearances amid heavy criticism from survivors.

Amayra Hamilton, one of the Angel Valley owners, has said the staff had minimal contact with Ray over the seven years he held sweat lodges there, and that other groups had used the same lodge for ceremonies without any problems.

Bunn said she believes the "Spiritual Warrior" events should be called off indefinitely.

"It frightens me that I didn't stand back a little more," she said.

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