Marco McMillian. | MARCOMCMILLIAN.COM
Though police have made an arrest in the February 26 killing of Marco McMillian, a 34-year-old out gay candidate for mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi, friends of the victim and friends of the suspect are offering starkly different views of the relationship between the two men.
McMillian, a fundraising executive who owned his own consulting firm, was found dead near the Mississippi River in Clarksdale on February 27. The day before, Lawrence Reed, 22, had crashed McMillian’s SUV head-on into another vehicle on a local highway, with McMillian’s whereabouts unknown at that time. Reed was med-evacced to a hospital in Memphis, where he was arrested on murder charges one day after McMillian’s body was found.
Though press reports said McMillian had been strangled, authorities said that toxicology tests would delay completion of the autopsy for up to several weeks.
While accounts from people who know both men agree that they met several weeks earlier at a bar, become friends, and planned on attending a party together on the night of February 25 ––hours before McMillian was killed –– they differ on whether the men were engaged in a romantic relationship.
The local ABC affiliate reported that Derric Crump, a friend of Reed’s, said he had been told by Reed’s girlfriend that she received a call from him on the night of killing telling her that McMillian was pressing Reed to engage in sex with him.
But the Clarion Ledger newspaper quoted Carlos Jones, a friend of McMillian’s, saying the two men were “having an affair.”
In the immediate aftermath of McMillian’s killing, Patricia McMillian, his mother, told CNN she doubted the killing was motivated by her son’s profile as a prominently out gay man.
“He did not announce in public that he was gay,” she said. “I don't think he was attacked because he was gay.”
On March 3, however, a statement from her family said they had learned McMillian’s body was found naked, partially burned, bruised, and swollen. Carter Womack, the dead man’s godfather, said the family now wanted the killing investigated as a hate crime. Though the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office said that was not under investigation –– and Mississippi law has no provision for hate crime penalties based on sexual orientation –– an FBI spokesman, on March 6, said the federal government would look at whether the killing was motivated by McMillian's sexual orientation.
Marco Millian with President Barack Obama. | MARCOMCMILLIAN.COM
The Clarion Ledger described Clarksdale as a community of 18,000, more than half of whom live below the poverty line. A majority of its residents are African-American, as are both the victim and the suspect.
In the wake of the killing, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a Washington-based group that works to elect LGBT officials, described McMillian as “one of the first viable” out candidates in Mississippi.