Boyfriend dealt life in prison for '04 slaying

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Gwinnett Superior Court jury didn't buy Larry Bowling's claims that he accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend five years ago.

Jurors convicted the Buford man of felony murder and aggravated assault, Assistant District Attorney Keith Miles reported late Tuesday evening.

Superior Court Judge Michael Clark swiftly sentenced the 35-year-old to life in prison. Deliberations, which began Tuesday afternoon, lasted several hours.

Bowling fatally shot his girlfriend, Melody Harrell, 20, in the face following a late-night argument at a Buford karaoke bar in April 2004.

The shooting happened as the couple were riding in a van down Bona Road. Once shot, Harrell, who was driving, lost control of the vehicle, and it slammed into a house.

A doctor testified during the trial that Bowling tested positive for cocaine, marijuana, opiates and other drugs the night of the shooting. His blood alcohol content by the time he reached the hospital - two hours later - was nearly twice the driving limit.

Miles told jurors that Bowling's level of intoxication, coupled with his violent nature, triggered the split decision that led to the woman's death.

Bowling's defense attorney, Lyle Porter, tried to pin blame on an unidentified black man he contended was in the van's backseat and was struggling with Bowling when the gun fired. The man, the defense claimed, fled the scene after the crash.

Doctors pulled Harrell off life support the following day. A family member testified she'd have lived in a vegetative state the rest of her life if that decision was not made.

An expert testified Bowling's gun would have required five to 10 pounds of pressure on the trigger before it would discharge - further evidence that the shooting was intentional, Miles said.

A life sentence requires service of at least 14 years before parole eligibility, according to current guidelines by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.