Little Nashville Opry Manager Charged With Arson

A probable cause affidavit says extensive gambling losses may have led to the alleged arson.

Little Nashville Opry

Photo: WFIU News

The Little Nashville Opry Burned in September of 2009.

The former manager of the Little Nashville Opry has been arrested for intentionally setting fire to the popular music venue more than two years ago.

James Bowyer, 75, has been charged with felony arson for the fire that destroyed the building on September 19, 2009. Bowyer was arrested Tuesday afternoon by agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who carried a sealed warrant issued Monday by Brown County Circuit Judge Judith Stewart.

A probable cause affidavit says both Bowyer and the venue‘s owner, Esther Hamilton, had extensive debts largely due to gambling losses. The affidavit says Bowyer was promised $300,000 if the Opry was sold but a deal to sell the venue fell through a few weeks before the fire.

Brown County Prosecutor Jim Oliver says investigators from all over the nation took part in the case. More than 40 subpoenas were issued and several search warrants served. Oliver says there is no evidence of involvement by others. Oliver says Bowyer is likely to have an initial hearing Wednesday afternoon before Judge Stewart.

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