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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
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  • July 25
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • July 25
    Bean Blossom farmers market Friday
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • July 25
    'Fault in Our Stars' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • July 25
    Make a collage journal at Jerseyana
    5 to 8 p.m. Jerseyana, 156 S. Old School Way
  • July 25
    Karaoke at saloon
    9 p.m. to midnight Seasons Lodge, 560 State Road 46 East
  • July 25
    Live music at Out of the Ordinary
    7 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • July 25
    Friday at BCSP
    10 a.m., 2 p.m., 8:30 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • July 25
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • July 26
    Live music at saloon
    9 p.m. to midnight Seasons Lodge, 560 State Road 46 East
  • July 26
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • July 26
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • July 26
    'Soaring' sculpture dedication and picnic
    5 p.m., 5:30 to 7 p.m. Van Buren/Main, Main/Jefferson streets
  • July 26
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • July 26
    'Soaring' sculpture after-party
    7 to 10 p.m. Olde Magnolia House Inn, 213 S. Jefferson St.
  • July 26
    Live music at Out of the Ordinary
    7 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • July 26
    Fingerstyle guitar competition events
    1 to 5 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • July 26
    Saturday at BCSP
    10 a.m., 2 p.m., 8:30 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • July 26
    Live music at Big Woods Pizza Co.
    8 to 10 p.m. Big Woods Pizza Co., 44 N. Van Buren St.
  • July 27
    'Fault in Our Stars' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • July 27
    Antiques with Steve at Jerseyana
    5 to 8 p.m. Jerseyana, 156 S. Old School Way
  • July 27
    Walking stick workshop at BCSP Nature Center
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • July 28
    Monday at BCSP Nature Center
    10 a.m., 2 p.m., 8 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • July 29
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • July 29
    Geology talk at BCSP Nature Center
    10 a.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • July 29
    Brown County Commissioners executive session
    9 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • July 30
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • July 30
    Squirrel at BCSP Nature Center
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • July 31
    Rotary Club food booth open for the county fair
  • July 31
    Go Club at the library Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • July 31
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • July 31
    WRAPS meetings
    7 to 9 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • July 31
    'Transformers: Age of Extinction' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • July 31
    Thursday at BCSP
    10 a.m., 2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • August 1
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • August 1
    Live music at Out of the Ordinary
    7 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 1
    Bean Blossom farmers market Friday
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • August 2
    Live jazz at Out of the Ordinary
    7 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 2
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • August 2
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • August 5
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • August 6
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • August 7
    Go Club at the library Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 7
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • August 7
    WRAPS meetings
    7 to 9 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 8
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • August 8
    Live music at Out of the Ordinary
    7 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 8
    Bean Blossom farmers market Friday
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • August 9
    Second Saturday Village Art Walk
    5 to 8 p.m. Downtown Nashville
  • August 9
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • August 9
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • August 9
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • August 9
    Late night dancing at Out of the Ordinary
    9:30 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 12
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • August 14
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • August 15
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • August 16
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • August 17
    Church hosts 50-year anniversary for Catholic sister
    noon to 3 p.m. St. Agnes Catholic Church, 1008 McLary Road
  • August 22
    Live music at Out of the Ordinary
    7 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 23
    Late night dancing at Out of the Ordinary
    9:30 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 30
    Wagler Dairy hosts fifth annual ice cream social
    4:30 to 8 p.m. Wagler Dairy, 7085 Homestead Road
  • September 13
    Second Saturday Village Art Walk
    5 to 8 p.m. Downtown Nashville
  • September 13
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road