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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 »

Millard Thompson, 90, Brown County
  Husband of Linda Lou (Scott) Thompson of Nineveh

Janice Mae (Rockwood) Burrier, 68, Brown County
  Member of St. Agnes Catholic Church in Nashville

Carolyn J. Axe, 77
  Former attendant with Brown County State Park in Nashville

  • July 30
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  • July 30
    Nashville Roundtable discussion with IN Office of Small Business & Entrepreneurship
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    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
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    Nashville Town Council
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    Thursday at BCSP
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  • 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)
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    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
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    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
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    Van Buren Trustee Advisory Board/ Fire Board
    6:30 p.m. Van Buren Fire Station, 6801 S. Hamilton Creek Road
  • August 6
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • August 6
    Concerned Citizens of Brown County
    6:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library
  • 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 13
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • August 13
    Concerned Citizens of Brown County
    6:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library
  • August 14
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • August 14
    Go Club at the library
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 15
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • August 15
    Bean Blossom farmers market Friday
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • August 16
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • August 16
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • August 17
    Church hosts 50-year anniversary for Catholic sister
    noon to 3 p.m. St. Agnes Catholic Church, 1008 McLary Road
  • August 18
    Public library executive session
    5:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 19
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • August 21
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • August 21
    WRAPS meetings
    7 to 9 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 22
    Live music at Out of the Ordinary
    7 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 22
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • August 22
    Bean Blossom farmers market Friday
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • August 23
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • August 23
    Late night dancing at Out of the Ordinary
    9:30 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 23
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • August 26
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • 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