• Mysterious retreat death

    Mysterious end: Ian Thorson, left, has died after fleeing a Buddhist retreat with his wife Christie McNally, right. They camped in the Aizona mountains where Thorson died of exposure and dehydration
    Ian Thorson died from exposure after fleeing Buddhist retreat with his wife
  • Ordered out of the retreat after revealing she had stabbed him 'by mistake'
  • Thorson was the love rival of Michael Roach, a divisive Princeton-educated monk who ran the retreat
  • Roach had been secretly married to Thorson's wife
A man who was part of a mysterious yoga retreat - likened to a cult - has been found dead in the mountains in Bowie, Arizona after fleeing the sect with his wife and succumbing to exposure.

The grisly death is just the latest twist in a story that involves a Princeton-educated monk, his forbidden wife and a stabbing in the desert.

Search and rescue teams found Ian Thorson's body in a cave alongside his wife, Christie McNally, who was delirious and thirsty.

Six weeks earlier, they had been ordered to leave the Diamond Mountain retreat after she revealed in one of her lectures that she had stabbed him with a knife 'by mistake'.

monk and wife

Love rival: McNally had previously been married to the leader of the retreat, Michael Roach, a diamond investor turned monk. They caused outcry when the marriage was made public
While police do not suspect foul play in his death, it raises questions about the secretive group with which the couple were involved.

At the Buddhist Diamond Mountain retreat, nearly 40 adherents pledged to meditate for three years, three months and three days. Their only communication was by paper and pen.

It was run by a divisive Princeton-educated monk and McNally's former husband, Michael Roach, whose teachings have been rejected as unconventional by some, including the Dalai Lama.

Roach, who had previously run a diamond business worth tens of millions of dollars, raised eyebrows for promoting Buddhist principles as a path to financial success, the New York Times reported.

Yoga teacher Matthew Remski described the leader as a 'charismatic Buddhist teacher' who he respected until his popularity 'turned him into a celebrity'.

Others have cited concerning initiation ceremonies. A former volunteer, Sid Johnson, told the Times that his involved 'kissing and genital touching'. Another claimed she had blood drawn from her finger.

Diamond Mountain retreat

Strict: Roach set up the Diamond Mountain retreat, pictured, where adherents meditate for three years, three months and three days. The only communication is by pen and paper
Another of his questionable practices was his secret marriage to McNally, which is forbidden by Buddhism. It lasted more than a decade and ended in 2010 - a month before she married Thorson.

The couple met in New York city when he was her teacher. Despite the 20-year age gap, their friendship became something more - and they vowed never to stray more than 15ft from each other.

Roach and McNally had lived together in a yurt throughout a three-year retreat he had promoted from 1999, but they claimed they were celibate and kept the marriage secret from others.

But, as Page Six Magazine reported, his version of celibacy was also questionable.

'We are not allowed to have sex, but in yoga there are practices that involve joining with a partner,' he said.

'They are secret, and you are not allowed to disclose them. You might think of them as sex, but their purpose is to move inner energy. It takes very strict training.'

Dalai Lama and Thurman

Criticism: Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, left, and the Dalai Lama, centre, both turned their backs on Roach after it came to light that he had married
When the marriage came to light, Roach said he and his wife came from Christian backgrounds so they wanted to carry out a Christian partnership, as well as a Buddhist one.

He added that he wanted her to be able to legally claim his possessions if he passed away.

But the union garnered derision from Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, father of actress Uma Thurman, who said he should renounce his monastic vows - but Roach refused.

The Dalai Lama's office called it 'unconventional behaviour' and refused to see him when he travelled to India with his students in 2006.

But in 2009, McNally left Roach for Thorson, a young student who had once served as their attendant. After, Roach was seen dancing in Manhattan clubs with Russian models.

He said of the break up: 'You should see your partner as an angel who came to teach you. I look at Christie that way - the education is finished and now she is teaching a new person. If you try to see it that way, it helps your heart to hurt less.'

Her union with Thorson seemed far from simple. In a lecture before they fled, she admitted he had become violent and she had stabbed him.

She used a knife the couple had been given as a wedding present, but later claimed she was practising martial arts and it went wrong. He suffered three stab wounds to the chest.

McNAlly and Thorson

Union: The couple, who married in 2010, had written books and taught classes together
In a letter written after they left the retreat, she wrote: 'Of course it was an accident! I would never do harm to anyone's body on purpose, least of all my holy husband, who I adore.'

She explained: 'We were simply fooling around, like children playing with their father's samurai sword, unaware that eventually someone is bound to get hurt.'

After the incident, they were given five days to leave, but they left immediately.

In her letter, McNally said they were not ready to re-enter the world so were going camping on land next to the retreat 'to get our thoughts settled'.

When members of the retreat searched for them, they hid in a cave. The people also left water for them, knowing they were around, but the couple fell ill and could not retrieve it, authorities said.

On April 22 at 6 a.m. - six weeks after they left the retreat - McNally sent a distress signal to Diamond Mountain from a transmitter she had been carrying.

When caretakers could not find the couple, they called 911.

A search-and-rescue team from the Cochise County Sheriff's Office found Thorson had died from dehydration and exposure, and his wife was weak and delirious.

Three of Diamond Mountain's caretakers set out to look for her and Mr. Thorson, but could not find them. Around 8 a.m., the caretakers called 911.

The retreat will end on April 3, 2014. Of its original 39 participants, 34 remain.