IN BRIEF

INTERSTATE 15

Wrong-way vehicle blamed in fatal crash

A Henderson man who was driving the wrong way on Interstate 15 on Wednesday morning caused a head-on collision that left him and another driver dead, Nevada Highway Patrol officials said.

The 25-year-old Henderson man was driving a Nissan Infinity sedan the wrong way on I-15 south between Silverado Ranch Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway, trooper Kevin Honea said. At about 3:40 a.m., the Nissan collided with a 2002 Ford pickup, driven by another man, that was traveling in the right direction.

The collision caused both cars to become engulfed in flames, Honea said.

The drivers of both vehicles were pronounced dead at the scene and were not identified by authorities on Wednesday.

1998 DEATH

Man gets 20 years to life after retrial

A man convicted of first-degree murder in 1999 and sentenced to life without parole received a new sentence on Wednesday.

District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez sentenced Levenral Polk to 20 years to life for the 1998 slaying of his friend, 22-year-old Walter Hodges.

Authorities said Polk shot and killed Hodges at a bus stop on Owens Avenue and Nellis Boulevard in December 1998.

Polk, now 32, was retried in the slaying this summer after he was granted a new trial because of an issue involving jury instructions.

A jury convicted Polk of second-degree murder during the new trial, said David Schieck, special public defender.

“He is not the same man he was,” Schieck said.

But Clark County prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci said Polk had been moved from High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs to the maximum-security Ely State Prison because of behavioral problems.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Polk maintained his innocence but gave his condolences to Hodges’ family, who attended the sentencing.

Clifton Harrell, a relative of Hodges’ who spoke during the hearing, said he was upset that after almost 10 years in prison, Polk still said he was innocent in the slaying.

“I just thought he would come here and be a man,” Harrell said.

Polk and Hodges sold drugs together but had gotten into a fight prior to the shooting, authorities said.

MENTAL HEALTH REFORM

Veterans bill pays tribute to valley man

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a mental health reform bill inspired in part by an Iraq War veteran from Las Vegas who died from an overdose while receiving care at a veterans hospital.

A section of the bill pays tribute to U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Bailey, who died in January 2007 after enrolling himself in a substance abuse program at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.

Bailey, a 1998 graduate of Las Vegas High School, was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder after serving active duty in Iraq.

His death spurred members of Congress to examine substance abuse and mental health care offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Bailey “was under VA care when his life tragically ended,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. “We owe it to his memory and to the Bailey family to see that what happened in his final days is never again repeated.”

Berkley sits on the House veterans affairs committee that finalized the bill, which requires the VA to strengthen its services to victims of post traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.

The bill also requires the VA inspector general to review procedures at all the department’s residential mental health care facilities, including the management of prescription drugs.

HENDERSON INCIDENT

Man, 23, found shot in townhouse ID’d

A man who died after being shot in a Henderson townhouse earlier this week has been identified as Bilal S. Bunnery, 23, of Las Vegas.

Residents of the townhouse at 1650 Coyote Run Drive, near Arroyo Grande Boulevard and American Pacific Drive, were not home when Bunnery was shot, Henderson police said. The residents found him bleeding in the home at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Bunnery, who was not a resident of the home, died at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, Siena Campus, police said. A cause of death had not yet been determined by the Clark County coroner’s office on Wednesday. But police said Bunnery was the victim of a homicide.

CALIFORNIA ELECTION

Religious leaders push for gay marriage ban

Hundreds of pastors in California have called on their congregations to fast and pray for passage of a ballot measure in November that would put an end to gay marriage in the state.

The collective act of piety, starting Wednesday and culminating three days before the election in a revival for as many as 100,000 people at the San Diego Chargers’ stadium, comes as church leaders across California put people, money and powerful words behind Proposition 8.

Alarmed by a California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, churches of many faiths have banded together in support of a measure that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Under federal law, religious organizations cannot endorse political candidates but are free to campaign on social issues without endangering their tax-exempt status.

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