At 6:30 pm on Wednesday night, people were lining up at the Heritage Ballroom inside the Antlers Hilton in Colorado Springs. About 125 people filled the ballroom to listen to James Arthur Ray. He was here to sell and promote his beliefs, teaching people how to “enrich their lives and their pocket book in the process.”
Gary Tuchman and I were there for another reason. We were trying to speak with Ray about a homicide investigation surrounding the deaths of three people at a sweat lodge Mr. Ray organized and attended in Sedona, AZ two weeks ago.
Authorities at the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office say they would like to speak with Ray about his involvement in the sweat lodge ceremony and have said the incident is now considered a homicide investigation. Family members of those who died also say they would like to speak with him. While he may not be talking to them, Ray has kept very busy, sticking with his schedule - stopping at various cities across the country over the past two weeks trying to drum up business.
Last night, Gary was finishing a phone interview with Beverly Bunn, a woman who was inside the sweat lodge two weeks ago, while I was sitting in the lobby waiting for Ray to arrive.
Bunn told Gary that the group was encouraged by Ray to fight through the pain of sitting inside the hot conditions of the sweat lodge. She told Gary people were passing out and people started shouting names to see check if anyone else had passed out. Bunn says a woman passed out and the group wasn’t sure if she was breathing. When it was brought to Ray's attention, Bunn said, “He said the door has now closed and the round has begun.” Bunn says Ray told the group “we’ll deal with that at the end of this round.”
When Gary came down to the lobby, he and photojournalist Kevin Myers were approached by Hilton Security and a police officer and were told they were not allowed to take any video of Ray. I was inside the ballroom, where the self–help promoter was about to take the stage. Ray was introduced and immediately addressed the crowd saying that the past 10 days had been the toughest days of his life because of those who passed away. He also said there were many things being said about him that were very disparaging.
It was then that I introduced myself as a reporter with CNN and asked him how he could justify touring from city to city, earning money, not two weeks after three people had died in a sweat lodge he organized.
He told me that the event was not a press conference, and I kept repeating my question asking why he hadn’t spoken with anyone about these issues. I was then asked by security to get up, and was escorted out of the ballroom never getting an answer.
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