A self-help author responsible for the deaths of three people he was claiming to help was freed from a Buckeye prison Friday, despite protests from his victims’ families and friends.
James Arthur Ray has served 85 percent of the his two-year sentence for negligent homicide, according to the Huffington Post.
In 2009, Ray held a five-day, self-help “Spiritual Warrior” retreat, during which two participants died and 18 were injured after spending too much time in a sweat lodge. Another woman went into a coma and died more than a week later, according to CBS News.
Prosecutors accused Ray of exposing participants to dangerous levels of heat and standing by as victims asked him for help. Ray’s attorneys argued that he did not notice participants were suffering and dying because of the heat.
Victims’ family and friends grew furious when Ray did not receive a longer sentence.
One of the victim’s mothers, Victoria Brown, quit her full-time job after he daughter was killed, to try and prevent more tragic incidents in the self-help industry, as part of a non-profit group her family formed called SEEK Safely.
The group aims to bring more regulation and checks for safety into the self-help industry, to prevent misinformation from spreading and future deaths and injuries from occurring.
Participants in Ray’s retreat entered the sweat lodge after Ray had promoted it as a place where one could achieve a spiritual epiphany.
Jon Ray, James Ray’s brother, said he thinks James would have tried to help participants during the sweat lodge incident if he had been aware of what was happening.
"(James is) definitely wanting to help people like he's always done," he said.