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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 »

Eddie E. “Hoss” Wilkerson II, 42, Pendleton
  Native of Brown County, 1991 graduate of BCHS

James E. (Jim) Robinson, 76, Bedford
  Former chief deputy of police for the town of Nashville

Josephine Lee Cueto, 62, Morgantown
  Daughter of Priscilla Burgmeier of Nashville

  • November 28
    Bingo
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  • November 28
    Government Offices CLOSED
  • November 28
    'St. Vincent' at the Playhouse
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    'A Tuna Christmas' dinner theater at the Playhouse
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  • November 29
    Euchre
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  • November 29
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
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  • November 29
    'St. Vincent' at the Playhouse
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  • November 29
    'A Tuna Christmas' at the Playhouse
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  • November 30
    'St. Vincent' at the Playhouse
    7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • November 30
    'A Tuna Christmas' at the Playhouse
    2 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
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  • December 1
    Gnaw Bone Sewage District
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  • December 1
    BC 4-H Council
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    Euchre
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  • December 2
    Open 12-step meetings in New Bellsville area
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  • December 2
    Nashville Redevelopment Commission CANCELED
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    Woodworkers Club
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  • December 3
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
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  • December 3
    BC Local Emergency Planning Committee
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    BC Soil & Water District
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  • December 4
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  • December 4
    'A Tuna Christmas' at the Playhouse
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  • December 5
    Bingo
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  • December 6
    Church schedules drive-thru Nativity
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  • December 6
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 6
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
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  • December 6
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    'A Tuna Christmas' at the Playhouse
    2 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
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  • December 8
    Boys Freshman Basketball
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  • December 9
    Euchre
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  • December 9
    Nashville Parking & Public Facilities
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  • December 9
    BC 4-H Fair Board
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  • December 9
    Girls JV, Varsity Basketball
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  • December 10
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
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  • December 10
    Boys Freshman Basketball
    6 p.m. BCHS, 235 School House Lane
  • December 11
    'A Tuna Christmas' at the Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 12
    Widowed group plans Christmas party
    noon Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • December 12
    BCSP Christmas bird count slated
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  • December 12
    'A Tuna Christmas' dinner theater at the Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 13
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • December 13
    'A Tuna Christmas' at the Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 14
    'A Tuna Christmas' at the Playhouse
    2 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
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    Brown County Schools Board of Trustees
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