The family of an openly gay man who was running for mayor in Mississippi and whose body was found last week, said that he was beaten, dragged and burned, but officials have refused to comment on those allegations.
The body of Marco McMillian, 34, was found on Wednesday near the Mississippi River west of Clarksdale, the city where he was running for mayor on a platform of helping the poor and fighting crime. McMillian had been missing for about a day.
Lawrence Reed, 22, has been charged with murder in the case and is in the custody of officials, Will Rook, a spokesman for the Coahoma County sheriff’s office, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. Rook said he could not discuss the condition of McMillian’s body.
No cause of death has been issued yet, officials said. But McMillian’s family, in a prepared statement released on Sunday, said they were told by county officials that the body had been abused.
“This is a very difficult time for us, the family of Marco Watson McMillian of Clarksdale, Mississippi, as we have lost our beloved son, family member, and friend. In this time of our great loss, we want to thank everyone for their words of comfort and support,” the family said.
“We know that Marco was brutally murdered. His body was found on Wednesday, February 26, 2013, beaten, dragged and burned (set afire). This was reported in our meeting with the local coroner on two occasions. We were informed that the official autopsy report could take two to four weeks to complete.
“We feel that this was not a random act of violence based on the condition of the body when it was found. Marco, nor anyone, should have their lives end in this manner,” the family said, calling for a full investigation of the death.
Rook said he was aware of the family’s statement, but could not comment. He said that any motive for the murder was still being investigated.
McMillian is believed by his campaign to be the first openly gay mayoral candidate in the state. McMillian’s sexuality has not been an issue in the campaign, however.
McMillian, a Democrat, returned several months ago to his hometown of Clarksdale to run for mayor. He had served as international executive director of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, executive assistant and chief of staff to the president of Alabama A&M University, and assistant to the vice president for institutional advancement at Jackson State University. He also owned a consulting business in Memphis.
Reed, the suspect, was found Tuesday morning after allegedly crashing an SUV owned by McMillian into another vehicle near the Coahoma County line. McMillian was not in the vehicle so authorities searched for the candidate, and found his body the next day.
Reed was treated at a Memphis hospital and handed over to Mississippi authorities over the weekend. He is currently in the custody of the sheriff, Rook said.