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Opry arson trial under way; jury not yet chosen
Updated on: 01.21.14

Sub-freezing temperatures and blowing snow prevented all of the 100 or so potential jurors from showing up to Brown Circuit Court Jan. 21, the first day of the Little Nashville Opry arson trial.

James D. Bowyer, 77, the former Opry business manager, is accused of using an ignitable liquid to burn down the country music venue the night of Sept. 19, 2009.

By the end of Day 1, a jury had not yet been seated. A majority of the jury pool will have to return Wednesday, Jan. 22 as Judge Judith Stewart, Prosecutor Jim Oliver and defense attorney John Boren continue the selection process.

Potential jurors completed a written questionnaire about their knowledge of Bowyer, the fire and witnesses that might testify. The attorneys chose to further question about 60 of the potential jurors in a separate courtroom, so their responses about what they knew would not taint the jury pool.

As of 4 p.m., seven of the 60 or so people questioned were excused.

Oliver said he hoped to have a jury seated by Wednesday afternoon.

Three weeks have been set aside for the trial.

After lunch on Day 1, a packed courtroom heard Oliver and Boren give “mini-opening statements."

Oliver said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives determined the fire was intentionally set on or near the stage. “The question is simply, who did it?” Oliver said. He pointed at Bowyer, saying he had the motive, the knowledge and the opportunity.

Boren said he intends to use cell phone records to show that Bowyer did not set the fire because he was not present when it started. The records will show who was there, he said.

The also prosecutor brought up the financial standing of the Opry, Bowyer and then-owner Esther Hamilton. Ticket sales were down and the building was deteriorating. Bowyer and Hamilton had significant gambling debts. The Opry had nearly sold, but financing fell through. With no hope of it selling, Oliver said the $3 million insurance policy provided plenty of motive.

Boren promised the trial would be better than any novel the potential jurors ever read. He said those chosen will be fortunate to serve as jurors, in part, because they will get to play sleuths. He said no one will know who started the Opry fire.

Read updates throughout the trial at www.bcdemocrat.com and on the Brown County Democrat's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brown-County-Democrat/58947961030.

More information will be published in the Jan. 29 paper.

Obituaries
See Full List »

Helen Watkins, 81, Columbus
  Mother of Billy Ray Watkins of Nashville

Billy Howard Webb, 81, Greenfield
  Father of Larry Webb of Nashville

David H. Ellis, 69, Morgantown
  

  • May 30
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • May 30
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • May 30
    Comedy tour at the Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 31
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    10 a.m. to noon Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • June 2
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • June 2
    Open 12-step meeting in New Bellsville area
    8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • June 2
    Bean Blossom Sewer Board
    6:30 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • June 2
    CSCD Building Commission
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • June 2
    Nashville Redevelopment Commission
    4:30 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • June 3
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • June 3
    BC Commissioners
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • June 3
    Brown County Schools Board of Trustees
    5:30 p.m. BC Intermediate School, 260 School House Lane
  • June 3
    BC Emergency Management Advisory Council
    8 a.m. Ambulance Base, 53 State Road 46 East
  • June 3
    Brown County SWCD
    6:30 p.m. SWCD Office, 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • June 4
    Go Club at the library
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 4
    WRAPS
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 4
    Gospel jam & sing first Thursday in Gnaw Bone
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • June 4
    Rotary Club
    7:15 a.m. Artist Colony Inn, 105 S. Van Buren St.
  • June 4
    CSCD Ecology Commission
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • June 4
    Brown County Schools Board of Trustees
    6:30 p.m. BC Intermediate School, 260 School House Lane
  • June 5
    Strawberry fest during farmers market
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, 11 State Road 45 at 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • June 5
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • June 5
    Gospel jubilee at Redbarn
    8 p.m. RedBarn Jamboree, 71 Parkview Road, off 46 East
  • June 6
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • June 6
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • June 6
    Shrine parade celebrates summer
    11 a.m. downtown Nashville
  • June 6
    Kids VBS day set for Methodist church
    10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nashville United Methodist Church, 36 S. Jefferson St.
  • June 6
    Van Buren School reunion slated
    5 p.m. Van Buren Elementary School, 4045 State Road 135 South
  • June 6
    Live band at dance barn
    6;30 p.m., 8 to 11 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • June 7
    Hog roast at church slated
    Following a.m. services BC Community Church, 2370 Main St., Helmsburg
  • June 7
    Read to dogs at the library
    2 to 3:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 7
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    10 a.m. to noon Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • June 8
    BETA Can-do Camp dates set
    1 to 5:30 p.m. BETA center, behind Miller's Ice Cream
  • June 8
    VBS starts at Parkview church
    6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • June 8
    Beeline beekeepers club
    7 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 9
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • June 9
    Nashville Parking & Public Facilities
    6 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • June 9
    CSCD Roads, Security commissions
    6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. CSCD Office, 8377 Cordry Drive; CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • June 9
    Open 12-step meeting in New Bellsville area
    8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • June 9
    Retired teachers to meet at new history center
    noon Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • June 9
    Peaceful Valley Heritage meeting
    6:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 10
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • June 10
    CRC Steering Committee
    6:30 p.m. CRC, 246 E. Main St.
  • June 11
    Go Club at the library Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 11
    Gospel jam & sing at Gnaw Bone church
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • June 11
    BC photography club
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 12
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • June 12
    BC photography club
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 13
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • June 13
    Open house conducted at New Song
    9 to 11 a.m. New Song Mission, 7202 Keith Donaldson Road, Freetown
  • June 13
    Homemakers garage sale at the fairgrounds
    8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Exhibit building, Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • June 15
    Essential oil class at tea shop
    6 p.m. Sweetea's Tea Shop, 225 S. Van Buren St., Suite C, Coachlight Square
  • June 17
    Hamblen Fire District
    7 p.m. Hamblen Fire Station, 4650 Sweetwater Trail, Gatesville
  • June 17
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • June 18
    WRAPS
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 18
    Gospel jam & sing at Gnaw Bone church
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • June 18
    Go Club at the library
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • June 20
    Rock & mineral club
    6 p.m. Extension Office, 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • June 20
    Pollinator Awareness Day at state park Nature Center
    9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • June 20
    Relay for Life walk set
    7 a.m.to 11 p.m. BCHS track, Main/Old State Road 46, at south end of Greasy Creek Road
  • June 23
    Art class set for fourth Saturday at winery
    3 to 5 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • June 27
    Pioneer women porch sale at history center
    8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • July 11
    Health fair at the YMCA
    8 a.m. to noon YMCA, 105 Willow St.
  • July 13
    Backpack Program meeting slated
    7 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane