CHARLESTON -- A bench trial for a Charleston man charged in the murder of his fiancee and her son began today.
Andre Clark, 43, is facing two counts of second degree murder and one count of first degree assault.
Originally scheduled for five days at the Mississippi County Courthouse, court officials believe the trial may finish Wednesday.
Clark was charged on Oct. 20, 2004, following a four-month investigation into the beating deaths of Lazan Tanette Balentine, 32, and her 4-year-old son, Kyri Savignon White-Balentine.
The Balentines were found dead on June 17, 2004, in their home at 802 South Grand St. in Charleston after apparently being beaten to death with a blunt object on June 16.
Balentine's other son, Knighten Sabir Balentine, who was age 3 at the time, was also beaten at the home and was seriously injured. The toddler was treated at a hospital in St. Louis and survived the injuries.
An occupational therapist, Balentine was formerly from Chicago but had moved to Charleston about a year before the murder.
Clark was taken into custody on Nov. 10, 2004, where he has remained on a $2 million bond.
Clark waived his right to a formal arraignment. His preliminary hearing was held Feb. 7, 2005.
Clark also waived his right to a jury trial.
Mississippi County Prosecuting Attorney Darren Cann is representing the state for the prosecution.
The case is being heard by Judge Fred W. Copeland, circuit judge for New Madrid County's 34th judicial circuit.