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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 »

Pamela Jo (Brown) Black, 58, Franklin
  Mother of Bryan Black (Tara Hammons) of Brown County

Tad Heminger, 70, Franklin
  Former Brown County resident

Violet Rose “Toots” Wilkerson, 94, Bloomington
  Mother of Ernest Wilkerson (Ricki) of Brown County

  • May 22
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 22
    Morel Mushroom sale to benefit local charities
    9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Brown County IGA parking lot, 30 Hawthorne Dr.
  • May 22
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 22
    Wildflower walk at state park
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • May 22
    "Hook" at the Playhouse
    7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 22
    Live music at bar
    7:30 to 9:30 p.m., 10 to 11:30 p.m. Big Busted Bar, 44 N. Van Buren St.
  • May 22
    Gospel jubilee at Redbarn
    8 p.m. RedBarn Jamboree, 71 Parkview Road off 46 East
  • May 22
    Dave Miller at sports bar
    8 to 10 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • May 23
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • May 23
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • May 23
    Yard and bake sale at North Salem Methodist church
    9 a.m. to 2 p.m. North Salem Methodist church, 7718 State Road 46 East
  • May 23
    Art class set for fourth Saturday at winery
    3 to 5 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 23
    Studebaker Nationals, Spring Classic Saturday at BC Dragway
    Gates open at 9 a.m. B.C. Dragway, 480 Gatesville Rd., Bean Blossom
  • May 23
    Morel Mushroom sale to benefit local charities
    9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Brown County IGA parking lot, 30 Hawthorne Dr.
  • May 23
    Saturday at Brown County State Park
    10 a.m., 11 a.m., 7:30 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • May 23
    Yard sale at church includes crafts and baked goods
    9 a.m. to 3 p.m. BC Community Church, 2370 Main St., Helmsburg
  • May 23
    "Woman in Gold" at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 23
    Live music at bar
    7 to 9 p.m., 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. Big Busted Bar, 44 N. Van Buren St.
  • May 23
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 23
    Live band at sports bar
    8 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • May 23
    Live band at dance barn
    8 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • May 24
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    10 a.m. to noon Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • May 24
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    Noon to 2 p.m. Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • May 25
    Government Offices CLOSED
  • May 26
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • May 26
    BC Area Plan Commission CANCELED
    County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • May 26
    Open 12-step meeting in New Bellsville area
    8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • May 27
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • May 27
    BC Sheriff's Merit Board
    4 p.m. Sheriff's Office, Law Enforcement Center, 55 State Road 46 East
  • May 27
    BC Board of Zoning Appeals
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • May 28
    Go Club at the library
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • May 29
    Farmers market reopens in Bean Bean Blossom
    4 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, 11 State Road 45 at 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 29
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 29
    Gospel jubilee at Redbarn
    8 p.m. RedBarn Jamboree, 71 Parkview Road off 46 East
  • 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 3
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • 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 5
    Strawberry fest during farmers market
    4 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
    Shrine parade celebrates summer
    11 a.m. downtown Nashville
  • June 7
    Read to dogs at the library
    2 to 3:30 p.m. 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 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 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 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)
  • July 11
    Health fair at the YMCA
    8 a.m. to noon YMCA, 105 Willow St.