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Prosecutor: Arrest made in Little Nashville Opry case
Updated on: 03.06.12

James "Jim" D. Bowyer, 75


James "Jim" Bowyer, former manager of the Little Nashville Opry, was arrested Tuesday, March 6 on a Class B felony arson charge.

He is accused of setting the Sept. 19, 2009 fire that destroyed the music venue.

His initial hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Brown Circuit Court.

"There is no evidence at this time that anyone else participated in or conspired in the burning or the arson," said Brown County Prosecutor Jim Oliver at a press conference this afternoon.

Investigators concluded that the fire started on the stage with an ignitable liquid, Oliver said, reading from documents filed in Brown Circuit Court Monday. 

Portions of the sprinker system and the alarm bell had been disabled at the direction of Bowyer, according to a six-page probable cause affidavit by Michael A. Vergon, special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Investigators said Bowyer and Opry owner Esther Hamilton played millions of dollars at casinos over a four-year period and had only a couple hundred dollars in their personal checking accounts.

Little Nashville Opry Inc. also was facing two civil lawsuits that could have resulted in $270,000 in liabilities, the affidavit stated.

At least one attempt to sell the Opry -- in 2008, for $2 million -- had fallen through, investigators said.

This story will be updated.

PDF DOCUMENT: Probable cause affidavit about the case (click here to download)


A press conference will take place at 4 p.m. today to announce an arrest made in the Little Nashville Opry case, Prosecutor Jim Oliver announced this afternoon.

The press conference will take place at the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, where more details will be released.

The country music venue on State Road 46 West outside of Nashville burned to the ground the night of Sept. 19 2009. Authorities have long known the fire was intentionally set, but no arrests had been made up to this point.

As of 1:40 p.m. Tuesday, no one had been booked into the Brown County jail on any charges related to arson.

See Full List »

David O’Neal Williams, 75, Bloomington
  Father of Tony Williams of Nashville

Raymond M. Richardson, 83, Morgantown
  Father of Rob (Jennifer) Richardson of Brown County

Florence L. (Schonfeld) Cave, 76, Peoga
  Mother of Linda (Roger) Smith of Nashville

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