- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2011

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. (AP) - The roommate of a woman who died in an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony described the scene following the two-hour event as alarming and chaotic, with people dragging “lifeless” and “barely breathing” participants outside and volunteers performing CPR.

Beverley Bunn testified Friday in the manslaughter trial of self-help author James Arthur Ray in Camp Verde, providing a detailed account of what happened at the October 2009 event near Sedona.

Bunn said that as the ceremony ended, she pinched and shook people to gauge their level of consciousness, and helped direct treatment. Some participants were physically and mentally unable to tend to others, she said.

Bunn, an orthodontist, said Ray did nothing to help those who became ill or passed out.

She offered a strong statement in support of the prosecution’s theory that Ray conditioned participants to trust his judgment over their own: “You know what the rules are; he tells you what the rules are. Things are not optional.

“As you go through the week, you learn that there’s consequences or reprimands or something to be called out in front of all the people you’re there with if you question Mr. Ray,” Bunn said.

Ray’s attorneys say he didn’t assert control over participants but encouraged them to make choices they felt comfortable with. He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter.

Bunn’s voice quivered as she spoke about Kirby Brown, the 38-year-old woman with whom she shared a room at the retreat Ray rented for his “Spiritual Warrior” event. Bunn said Brown was “on top of the world” before the sweat lodge began.

Bunn said she was helping two men drag a “lifeless” woman out of the sweat lodge when she looked back and recognized the bathing suit Brown was wearing as she laid on the dirt floor.

Bunn said she went looking for Brown after helping others, including a woman who was “barely breathing,” another woman whose arm was turning blue because she was laying on it, and a man whose blood vessels had burst in his eyes.

She looked back toward the sweat lodge and saw one of Ray’s volunteers performing CPR on 40-year-old James Shore, who was dragged out along with Brown and also died. She then saw Brown’s stomach “going up and down.”

Bunn said she asked if she could help because she knew CPR but was told to stay back.

Another participant, Liz Neuman, 49, slipped into a coma and later died at a hospital.

Defense attorney Tom Kelly questioned the level of detail in Bunn’s testimony, saying her interviews with authorities lasted less than two hours yet her testimony took up an entire day. She was expected to resume testimony Tuesday.

Kelly took Bunn through a line of questioning that the defense has used to show that participants knew of the week’s events ahead of time and had acknowledged the risks by signing waivers.

Bunn agreed with Kelly that she freely choose to participate in the events of the retreat.

Kelly also alluded to a statement made by another defense attorney regarding the cause of death for the victims. He asked Bunn whether she was aware during a hiking trip she took at the Grand Canyon last year that dehydration and an elevated body temperature are classic signs of heat stroke. She said she was.

Medical examiners ruled that Brown and Shore died of heat stroke, but the defense contends neither exhibited those classic signs and said prosecutors failed to consider other factors in the deaths.

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