Bowyer found not guilty of arson in Little Opry fire


A jury found a Morgantown man not guilty of setting a fire that destroyed the Little Nashville Opry more than four years ago.

The Little Nashville Opry went up in flames in September 2009. It's business manager, James Bowyer, would end up engulfed in a legal inferno.

But Friday night - 52 months after the fire - the 78-year-old Bowyer was found not guilty.

"I want to thank my family for standing by me," said Bowyer after the jury verdict. "Thank my Lord more than anyone else. I told (defense attorney) John Boren I got all the faith in the world with you, but I got more faith in my Lord."

Boren was critical of the ATF's handling of the case.

"I feel exhausted, tired and very happy," said Boren as he left court Friday.

Investigators alleged it was arson for profit - a $3 million insurance settlement, to be exact.

"The physical evidence...there was no physical evidence," said Boren. "The timeline I referred to in final arguments, I feel that was compelling for the jury."

For prosecutor Jim Oliver, "We knew this was going to be a tough case, but it was too important not to bring it."

He says arsons are tough. Fire leaves few clues.

"The timeline was tight, but we thought we proved he could have done it," Oliver said. "Apparently, we didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did do it."

We asked if this means the fire investigation will be reopened. Oliver said "No, this case is closed. There is no other evidence that any other person committed this arson."

Becky Bowyer, James Bowyer's daughter-in-law, said, "We're relieved beyond measure. This is justice finally today. An innocent man was accused."

Before leaving with his family for a celebration dinner, Bowyer said he hopes the case is solved one day.

"I would never have done anything to hurt the Opry. Never in my life," he said.