Westtown mom of woman killed in sweat lodge aims to stop future tragedies

Posted: Updated:

The Westtown mother of a woman who died in a makeshift Arizona sweat lodge during a spiritual retreat says she wants to make sure that a similar tragedy never happens again.

Kirby Brown was one of three people who died on Oct. 8, 2009 when international self-help guru James Ray held a spiritual retreat that promised personal growth. Instead, three paying customers died.

Brown's mother, Ginny, is a licensed therapist. She says Ray wasn't qualified to help others and that prosecutors discovered the motivational speaker, who had been on national TV shows like Oprah’s, didn't have any real mental-health training.

"The more we learned about how the week unfolded we discovered he used mind control tactics, cult-like tactics,” says Ginny Brown.

Ray served 20 months behind bars for those deaths.

Since then, Kirby Brown’s family started an organization and website called SEEK Safely with tips and resources for people looking to attend similar events.

"This problem goes well beyond James Ray,” says Ginny Brown. "There are other people in the industry who are also dangerous. People need to pay attention to those red flags, people need to know their own vulnerabilities."

Brown is working on a bill of rights for self-help seekers for safety expectations to become law in New York state in the hope that what happened to her daughter will never happen again.

A fundraiser for SEEK Safely is being held next month.


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