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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 »

Craig Lawrence Holden, 48, New Palestine
  Husband of Dawn (McKamey) Holden formerly of Brown County

Melissa Ann Smith, 38, Nashville
  Mother of Michaela Smith of Nashville

James Lee "Jimmy" Bock, 47
  Brother of Patricia Bock of Nashville

  • September 21
    Monarch talk at BCSP Nature Center
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 21
    'The November Man' movie at the Playhouse
    1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • September 22
    Guided fall hike from BCSP fire tower
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 22
    Free small business seminar presented by ISBDC
    5:30 p.m. Brown County Inn, 51 State Road 46 East
  • September 23
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • September 23
    Ornithologist's field bag at BCSP Nature Center
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 23
    BC Area Plan Commission
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • September 23
    New 12-step meetings open in Van Buren area
    7 to 8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • September 24
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • September 24
    CSCD Board of Directors
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • September 24
    BC Board of Zoning Appeals
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • September 24
    BC Parks & Rec. Board
    5:15 p.m. BC Parks & Rec. Office, 1001 Deer Run Lane
  • September 24
    Taste of fall at BCSP Nature Center
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 24
    Bluegrass festival at music park
    Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 25
    Go Club at the library
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • September 25
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • September 25
    Bluegrass festival at music park
    Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 25
    Brown County/ Purdue Extension Board
    7 p.m. 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • September 25
    Thursday at BCSP
    10 a.m., 2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 26
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 26
    Bean Blossom farmers market Friday
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • September 26
    Comedy country music revue at the Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • September 26
    Bluegrass festival at music park
    Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 26
    Friday at BCSP
    2 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 27
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • September 27
    Bluegrass festival at music park
    Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 27
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • September 27
    Fall family farm day at theraputic horse farm
    10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hope for Hearts Farm Inc, 1005 W. State Road 45
  • September 27
    Women’s Retreat Day
    8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Salvation Army, 168 S. Jefferson St.
  • September 27
    Saturday at BCSP Nature Center
    9 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 27
    Parks and recreation plans ladies tea
    10 a.m. Sweetea's Tea Shop, 225 S. Van Buren St. in Coachlight Square
  • September 27
    Betty Begonia sale slated for September
    9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Artist's Retreat Cottage, 1641 Oak Grove Road
  • September 28
    Pinecone craft at BCSP Nature Center
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 28
    Therapy dogs to listen to readers
    2 to 3:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • September 29
    Monday at BCSP
    10 a.m., 8 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 30
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • September 30
    Nashville Development Review Commission
    6 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • September 30
    Fall flowers at BCSP Nature Center
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • October 1
    Local Emergency Planning Committee
    9 a.m. Ambulance Base, 53 State Road 46 East
  • October 1
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • October 1
    Brown County Commissioners
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • October 1
    BC SWCD
    6:30 p.m. SWCD Office, 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • October 2
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • October 2
    Go Club at the library Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • October 2
    WRAPS meetings
    7 to 9 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • October 3
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • October 4
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • October 4
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • October 4
    Chili supper, music and mystery auction at Hickory Ridge
    5 p.m. Hickory Ridge Center, 2314 Hickory Ridge Lane
  • October 5
    Herb barn hosts antique market
    10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Flower & Herb Barn, 5171 Bean Blossom Road, Nineveh
  • October 5
    Elkinsville community reunion near Browning Mountain
    11 a.m. Bill Miller's farm, Elkinsville
  • October 7
    Magic club
    5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • October 7
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • October 8
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • October 9
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • October 9
    Go Club at the library Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • October 10
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • October 11
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • October 11
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • October 11
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • October 11
    Second Saturday Village Art Walk
    5 to 8 p.m. Downtown Nashville
  • October 14
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • October 15
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • October 25
    BCSP Halloween activities
    5 to 6 p.m., 8 to 10 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • November 8
    Second Saturday Village Art Walk
    5 to 8 p.m. Downtown Nashville
  • November 8
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road