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Sides rest in Opry arson trial; deliberation to start Friday
Updated on: 01.30.14

The defense and prosecution finished presenting evidence on the same day in the Little Nashville Opry arson trial.

James D. Bowyer, the 77-year-old man accused of burning down the country music venue on Sept. 19, 2009, did not testify.

Throughout the trial, he mostly sat expressionless while listening to law enforcement officers and Opry patrons and employees talk about what led to him being charged with the crime.

Bowyer had a number of supporters in the gallery each day, and he could be overheard telling them during breaks that he did not burn down the Opry and that’s why he would not plead guilty and accept a deal.

Bowyer is the former Opry business manager. After a two-year investigation, he was arrested and charged with Class B felony arson and Class C felony arson with intent to defraud. Since then, he has been represented by Martinsville attorney John Boren.

Prosecutor Jim Oliver and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mary Wertz called more than 40 witnesses to the stand during six days.

Boren called one witness, Harvey Farr, a musician who testified about seeing an older-model car in the Opry parking lot as the building burned. Testimony wrapped up before 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Before the prosecution and defense rested, the jury heard from three agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Boren wanted to know why ATF agent John O’Boyle did not ask Lincoln Hamilton, the son of former Opry owner Esther Hamilton, about his whereabouts the night of the fire. The agent said he had learned that Lincoln had been out of town.

Boren focused on discrepancies among the ATF agents’ hand-written notes, official reports and depositions. He keyed in on a statement the agents said Bowyer had made, about whether he urinated behind the Opry building the night of the fire.

The agents stood their ground. They said Bowyer did not tell them he “may have” gone behind the building, as Boren suggested.

ATF agents Mark Geever and John Healey, as well as Det. Scott Southerland of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, testified about hearing Bowyer make the statement. Healey said that after about an hour of answering questions on Sept. 27, 2009, Bowyer agreed to take a break. Bowyer and the two ATF agents exited the interview room inside the Brown County Law Enforcement Center and entered a restroom across the hall. When they went back into the hallway, Bowyer told the officers about driving around to the back of the Opry.

Healey said Bowyer then stopped participating in the interview because he did not like the questioning, which he felt was accusatory.

Boren asked why the ATF agents did not use available audio and video equipment in the interview with his client. The agents said they were trained on documenting interviews via hand-written notes, and continue the practice today.

Boren pointed out that not recording the interview prevented him and the jury from hearing what Bowyer said.

Brown Circuit Court Judge Judith Stewart excused the jury Thursday afternoon. Jurors are to return at 9 a.m. Friday to hear closing arguments and final instructions before they begin deliberating.

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