Christie McNally and Michael Roach, Famed Buddhist Teachers, in Tale of Death in Arizona Desert; Ian Thorson, McNally's Husband, Found Dead in Cave
image Christie McNally, noted Buddhist teacher, and Ian Thorson pose for a book-promo shot. Thorson died after the couple spent two months in a desert cave in southeastern Arizona following their eviction from a Buddhist retreat.
Famed teachers of Buddhism and yoga Christie McNally and Michael Roach are at the heart of a strange tale of the death of McNally's husband, Ian Thorson, last month in a desert cave.
Roach and McNally, who were said in a 2008 New York Times story to have a "growing following," co-wrote several books and also opened the Diamond Mountain University in a rural area near Bowie, Arizona. The place is Buddhist retreat where people embark on three-year silent retreats to find their inner selves.
After a scandalous relationship between Roach and McNally ended, McNally paired up with one of the Buddhist students, Ian Thorson of New York City. The two also wrote a book on yoga together, which Roach endorsed.
In February, the two were banished from the facility because of concerns about suspected domestic violence. They hiked to a shallow cave on federal land several miles southwest of Diamond Mountain's 960-acre property, taking jugs of water, a plastic tub full of food, and a cell phone.
On the morning of April 22, Diamond Mountain staff called authorities to report that the couple were in distress. A short while later, McNally called 911, saying Thorson was struggling to breathe.
After apparently spending more than two months in the cave with McNally, Thorson died before a rescue helicopter arrived.
Image: Facebook Christie McNally
Rescuers found five one-gallon jugs -- empty, though one had some water with leaves and branches in it. "It did not appear to be clean for drinking water," says Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Office.
No cooking materials were found, Capas says, even though much of the food included dried beans and rice.
The couple kept the food container at the bottom of a 60-foot embankment, to which they had to scramble and slide down. McNally told rescuers that she and Thorson became so weak that they made a "conscious decision," at some point, to stop trying to get food because they were worried they might not be able to climb back up the embankment, Capas says.
McNally was found in a weakened state and flown out with Thorson's body.
Capas says deputies had gone out to the Diamond Mountain University two months earlier following a February 13 call from the retreat's property manager, Robert Ruisinger.
Image: Cochise County Sheriff's Office A rescue helicopter arrived too late to save Thorson.
Ruisinger told the Sheriff's Office he wanted to report a possible domestic violence incident that had happened about a year ago, though no victim would be coming forward. He'd learned of a speech that McNally had given at the retreat on February 4 in which she'd "made comments about possibly cutting her partner, Ian Thorson, with a large knife."
Capas says the deputies didn't interview McNally, but did talk to a woman "who had sutured Ian's wound." She explained she'd been told the couple had been "goofing off."
Three days before their rescue, a 31-page screed written by McNally was uploaded to the Internet. In it, she complained about being booted from a retreat home she founded nine years ago. She downplayed the "knife incident" as a mishap during martial arts training with a "rather large samurai sword."
But she also described "physical aggression" and "outbursts" by Thorson:
We agreed on various remedial actions, and had a lot of debates! But I could not reject him. I took a vow to join with him "in sickness and in health." So if he had a problem, we both did. I am on this path, and needed to know what desperate fears and desires were in his heart,driving him.