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Former Opry business manager found not guilty
Updated on: 01.31.14

The verdict is in: Not guilty on both counts.

A jury of Brown County residents determined that James D. Bowyer did not set fire to the Little Nashville Opry in 2009.

James D. Bowyer, 77, was charged in March 2012 with arson and arson with intent to defraud, both felonies. The Sept. 19, 2009 fire destroyed the 35-year-old country music venue west of Nashville.

Bowyer was the Opry’s business manager at the time.

The prosecution called approximately 40 witnesses over six days to show that Bowyer and the Opry were in financial trouble. Bowyer's finances were intertwined with the Opry's, said Prosecutor Jim Oliver. Bowyer stood to benefit from burning down the building, which was insured for more than $3 million.

Defense attorney John Boren of Martinsville said multiple people could have done it.

He called only one witness: A Paoli man who testified that he saw a car in the Opry parking lot as the building burned. The prosecution's witnesses had not mentioned that car.

The prosecution's burden was to erase any reasonable doubt that anyone but Bowyer set the fire.

Witnesses testified about the Opry owing more than $1.5 million in loans and operating expenses, and Bowyer and former Opry owner Esther Hamilton having significant gambling debts.

At the time of the fire, the five Opry banking accounts contained a total of about $8,500.

Witnesses for the prosecution reported that Bowyer did not earn a salary as business manager.

But Boren argued there was no guarantee Bowyer would get anything if the Opry burned. He said Hamilton's late son, Lincoln, was heir to the Opry and would have benefited.

Four promissory notes found in the fire rubble showed Bowyer would have been paid $300,000 if the Opry sold. A sale had recently fallen through.

No one associated with the Opry received a fire insurance payout. A judge ruled that the policy was void because more than 50 percent of the sprinkler system had been dismantled.

Boren also accused the ATF investigators of forming biases that prevented them from thoroughly investigating the fire.

Bowyer did not testify. Throughout the trial, he sat expressionless as both sides built their cases.

When the verdict was read, Bowyer held his head in his hand and cried.

Read more in the Feb. 5 Brown County Democrat.

Obituaries
See Full List »

Toney R. Brown, 55, Glasgow, Kentucky
  Son of Dorothy “Dottie” Bock of Brown County

Jacqueline G. (Stidd) Blankenship, 81, Nashville
  

Jimmy Paul Moser, 79, Loveland, Colorado
  Former pharmacist/owner of Moser's Pharmacy in Nashville

  • 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 5
    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 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 18
    Public library executive session
    5:30 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 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