(NASHVILLE) - James Bowyer was found not guilty of arson.
A Brown County Jury deliberated about five hours before finding Bowyer not guilty of the Sept. 19, 2009, fire that destroyed the Little Nashville Opry.
The verdict followed three hours of final arguments from Brown County Prosecutor James Oliver and defense Attorney John Boren.
In closing, Oliver told the jury Bowyer set the fire because the Opry was in such bad financial shape that it was going to have to close. That closure, he told the jury, would have had a negative impact on selling the property. He highlighted the heavy losses Bowyer and the Opry owner, Ester Hamilton, had from gambling drove Bowyer to set the fire in order to collect insurance money.
Oliver claims Bower set the fire in a place in the Opry where the sprinkling system had been disconnected. And the only person that could have known that worked there.
But Defense Attorney John Boren told the jury the investigation was flawed from the beginning. He says agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms violated their manual by making judgment decisions before they had the facts.
Boren told the jury that Bowyer was not around when the fire started and that two employees of the Opry were the last to leave the building around 10:10 p.m. on the night of the fire
Oliver says there would be no further investigations into the fire.
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