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Two murder trials scheduled to begin this week

LAWRENCEVILLE - Two murder trials are scheduled to begin this week, joining the ongoing murder trial of Johnny Culpepper in Gwinnett Superior Court.

In the oldest case, Larry Ray Bowling is accused of shooting his girlfriend, Melody Harris, 20, in the head while the couple were traveling on Buford's Bona Road in April 2004. The trial was scheduled to begin last month but was continued.

Bowling was injured when the van crashed into a residence. He initially told police the shooting was accidental. Police lodged aggravated assault charges against him but upgraded them to murder two weeks after the shooting, when Harris died of her injuries.

A domestic clash preceded the fatal shot, police said at the time.

Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Michael Clark will preside in Bowling's trial.

In the other case, Jason Pirkle is said to have fatally stabbed his brother, Tracy, during a drunken, shirtless brawl last May.

Police said the deadly fight was triggered when Tracy Pirkle, 30, struck his wife, Brittany, after the couple argued about a misplaced wallet in their Hampton Square Drive apartment in Lawrenceville.

Family members have disputed that, claiming Jason Pirkle was fueled by alcohol and prescription pills when he launched an attack on his brother with a pocket knife.

Tracy Pirkle died in an area hospital from a stab to his heart an hour after the fight, police have said.

Judge Ronnie Batchelor will preside in that trial.

Meanwhile, testimony is expected to continue in the Culpepper case. He's charged with fatally stabbing 64-year-old Jenny Neville, a retired bank auditor, in a drug-fueled attack in 2006.