Marco McMillian (right) had everything going for him.
Only 33-years-old, McMillian was a contender for the top office in his hometown of Clarksdale, Miss., a Delta city known as the birthplace of the blues.
Though local reports suggest that a misread sexual advance or a possible romance between two gay lovers gone awry may have lead to the death of a rising political star. McMillian, an openly gay man, was hoping to win the mayoral race in his hometown this year. Had he done so, he would have become the first openly gay politician to be elected to any office in the state of Mississippi.
But he was found dead last week on Fe. 27. McMillian’s body was found burned and beaten, according to his family. Someone then dumped his remains near the Mississippi River.
The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., reports that someone is allegedly Lawrence Reed (pictured left). He was arrested this week in connection to McMillian’s murder. Not much is known about Reed other than he is a graduate of Broad Street High School in Shelby and that he had recently moved into an apartment in Clarksdale.
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Reed and McMillian reportedly met at a local Clarksdale bar. One version of the story has it that McMillian hit on Reed, an advance he did not warmly receive because, according to Reed’s friends, he is straight. Though McMillian’s friends say the two were romantically involved and had a fight before the mayoral candidate was killed.
Here is more from The Clarion-Ledger:
“They were having an affair,” said 18-year-old Carlos Jones. “They got to tussling.”Afterward, Reed allegedly drove around in McMillian’s SUV until 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when he collided head-on with another vehicle on U.S. 49 near the maximum-security Tallhatchie County Correctional Facility.
Reed was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, where he was still being held in stable condition as of Friday afternoon. The other driver was taken to a local hospital and has been released.
The Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department charged Reed with murder in McMillian’s death, but the investigation is ongoing. Authorities are not considering the incident a hate crime, said Sheriff’s Department spokesman Will Rooker. Autopsy results won’t be released for at least three weeks pending toxicology tests, said Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith.
After a successful career that took him to Washington, D.C., and Memphis, McMillian had returned to his hometown a few months ago to enter the mayor’s race. The Democrat wanted to combat crime in the mostly black community, as well as boost educational standards and bring jobs to the unemployed.
He moved back in with his mother and stepfather, Patricia McMillian and Amos Unger, in the single-family, ranch-style home where he grew up an only child.
Family members grieved quietly in the McMillian-Unger living room Thursday. Although they would not be interviewed, they welcomed a steady stream of well-wishers who came and went throughout the day.
“I grew up with him,” said family friend and neighbor Tony Jackson. “He was always very intelligent, very quiet. Everybody knew his (sexual) preference, but it didn’t matter.”
Though she’s married now, Patricia McMillian was a single mother most of her son’s life, Jackson said. She doted on him and sheltered him from the streets. He went on to college, served as international executive director of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and held high positions at both Alabama A&M University and Jackson State University.
He most recently was CEO of his own consulting firm.
Jackson said the community embraced McMillian and was excited about his run for mayor; he had a strong chance of winning, he said.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson is asking the FBI to investigate the case to determine if any federal laws were broken.
“I have spoken to Sheriff (Charles) Jones and have confidence in the work that he and his deputies have put forth thus far,” Mississippi’s 2nd District congressman said in a statement issued late Tuesday, referring to the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department.“However, at the request of the family,” Thompson said, “I have asked that the FBI review the circumstances and evidence of this case to determine whether a violation of federal law has occurred and provide any necessary assistance to local and state law enforcement officials.”
Some want Reed to be charged with a hate crime but that seems unlikely as Mississippi does not consider sexual orientation in their hate crime legislation.