The sheriff of Yavapai County, Ariz. says the deaths of two people during a sweat lodge ceremony led by self-help expert James Arthur Ray are being investigated as homicides.
Sheriff Steve Waugh says the deaths last week of Kirby Brown of Westtown N.Y. and James Shore of Milwaukee were not accidental.
According to Waugh, "A combination of circumstances led to the deaths." But he adds, "Whether or not we can prove a criminal case, that has yet to be determined."
Waugh says investigators are looking at the way the sweat lodge was built, the fact that people had fallen ill at previous sweat ceremonies led by Ray, and questionable medical care on site.
The sheriff says Ray is the primary focus of the probe but others also are being investigated.
Ray's spokesman, Howard Bragman, says the sheriff's use of "homicide" to characterize the investigation is irresponsible and a rush to judgment.