A man is in custody today after Mississippi’s first openly gay mayoral candidate was found murdered and his body dumped alongside a river.
Lawrence Reed, 22, of Clarksdale is reportedly being held as a person of interest but has not been charged, sources said.
Rising political star Marco McMillian, 34, was found dead on the Mississippi River levee at around 9am on Tuesday. Reed was allegedly driving McMillian’s SUV when it was involved in a head-on crash around that time.
The relationship between the two men is unclear. An autopsy report on McMillian’s cause of death is expected later today.
According to the pressregister.com, Reed was injured in the crash but provided police with the location of McMillian’s body.
Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith confirmed the body belonged to McMillian, a dedicated Democrat who was running to become mayor of Clarksdale.
Campaign supporters and residents paid tribute to the politician as a dedicated community activist and a legitimate candidate for office.
The local sheriff’s department said a ‘person of interest’ had been taken into custody in connection to the death but had not been charged. Authorities refused to officially release a name.
The politician’s body was found between Sherard and Rena Lara. Authorities had been looking for McMillian after a man crashed the candidate’s car into another vehicle on yesterday. McMillian was not in the car and was soon reported missing.
The sheriff’s office said deputies responded to the two-car crash on U.S. Highway 49 South near the Coahoma and Tallahatchie county lines at about 8 am.
Clarksdale, a town of around 17,8000 people, is well known for its blues music heritage. Morgan Freeman famously co-owns the Ground Zero Blues Club with Howard Stovall, a Memphis entertainment executive, and Bill Luckett, who also is running for mayor.
It is well-known to blues fans as the home of the crossroads, where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil for skills with a guitar.
McMillian was hoping to win the office being vacated by Mayor Henry Espy Jr., the brother of Mike Espy, a former congressman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary.
Henry Espy decided not to seek re-election after more than two decades in office.
Espy’s son, state Rep. Chuck Espy, is also running.
Fans and friends of McMillian, whose Facebook account features a picture of him alongside President Obama, paid tribute to him this week.
Dennis Thomas, 33, who works at Abe’s Barbeque, said: ‘There’s a lot of people upset about it. Why would somebody want to do something like that to somebody of that caliber?
‘He was a highly respected person in town. He’s been in the community helping out a lot.’
Norman Van Collins Sr took to Facebook to say the party had lost a future star.
‘I am definitely praying for the family as well as sharing their grief,’ he said. ‘Marco was like a son to me, and I so looked forward to his campaign and his ultimately becoming the next mayor of my hometown Clarksdale which so desperately needs leadership such that of Marco. He was definitely POTUS potential.’
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute said there ‘hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian’.
McMillian was CEO of MWM & Associates, described on its website as a consulting firm for non-profit organizations. He had recently served as international executive director of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.
Jimmy Hammock, the fraternity’s international president, praised McMillian in a Facebook post for making ‘an incredible difference in his community and in Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’.
A statement from the historically black fraternity said he had secured the first federal contract to ‘raise the awareness of the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS on communities of color for the Fraternity’.
It noted that Ebony Magazine had recognized him in 2004 as one of the nation’s ‘30 up-and-coming African Americans’ under age 30.
McMillian also worked at Alabama A&M University and Jackson State University in the past.