Jury selection started today in the trial of the former manager of the Little Nashville Opry House, which burned down in 2009.
James Bowyer has been charged with arson in the case. He was the business and personal partner of Esther Hamilton who, with her late husband, opened the facility in 1974.
Brown County Prosecutor James Oliver and Defense Attorney John Boren were in court today in Nashville to choose the jury.
The nationally-known country music venue burned down on September 19 of 2009. The blaze did more than $3 million in damage to the facility. The state fire marshal was quickly brought into the investigation of the fire’s cause.
Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that the Little Opry did not have a state entertainment permit for 2009, which meant that it hadn’t had its annual inspection for this year.
Later it was revealed that there had been three fires with undetermined causes at other properties owned by Edith Hamilton, and two fires at properties owned by Jim Bowyer. Hamilton also owed $68,000 in business and property back taxes.
By this time, agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had also been brought into the investigation.
Investigators concluded that the Little Opry fire had been deliberately set. In late September of 2009, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which includes the State Fire Marshal’s office, offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for this arson.
Later, Indiana Insurance, the Little Opry’s insurer, announced that it was offering a total of $25,000 reward for information.
Finally, in March of 2012, Bowyer was arrested and charged with arson in the fire.