James Arthur Ray, the purported self-help guru who led a "Spiritual Warrior" weekend retreat outside Sedona, Arizona in October 2009 at the tune of nearly $10,000 per participant that claimed three lives and hospitalized 18, is still remorseful, he told CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday, November 25, months after his July 12, 2013, state prison release.
"If I could trade places with any of the three, James, Kirby or Liz, I would do it," Ray said.
Ray was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide on June 20, 2011, and was sentenced to two years—concurrent sentences for each of the deaths. He was required to fulfill at least 85 percent of the term (20 months) and was ordered to pay $57,000 in restitution to the victims’ families
During the CNN interview, the 56-year-old author and former entrepreneur expressed anguish over his leadership of a sweat lodge ceremony that killed 38-year-old Kirby Brown of Westtown, New York, 40-year old James Shore of Milwaukee, and 49-year-old Lizbeth Marie Neuman of Prior Lake, Minnesota.
"I think the most difficult thing I can ever imagine is investing your entire life in helping people, and then finding them getting hurt," Ray told Morgan. "It's just the antithesis of anything that I had ever stood for or wanted. And so that anguish has continued every single day since that moment."
According to prosecutors, participants in Ray's spiritual retreat suffered dehydration and heatstroke at the hands of Ray's urging them to remain in the sweltering sweat lodge without food or water for hours on end. Participants testified that they were told they would symbolically die and then be reborn in the sweat lodge ritual, CNN reported, and that Ray scolded them to overcome their weakness and stay inside. The 18 people who were hospitalized endured burns, respiratory arrest, kidney failure, loss of consciousness and dehydration. Several witnesses recounted people collapsing, vomiting, violently shaking and experiencing delusions. They contended Ray heard and ignored the concerns.
"Was I arrogant? Yes. I have that characteristic, I can be arrogant," Ray told CNN's Morgan. "And I think there's a lot of hubris that comes in my former business. You know, people flying all over the world and asking me how to have a better life," he said. "It tends to go to your head. You know? You tend to think you've got all the answers, and so you get humbled."
Under his sentence, Ray is not barred from conducting self-help seminars or sweat lodge ceremonies. Family members of the victims have promised to monitor Ray should he try to reestablish his empire, CNN reported, but Ray says he has no intentions of trying to salvage his self-help business.