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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Marco McMillian: The Murder of a Mississippi Mayoral Candidate

     Marco McMillian grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a town of 18,000 in the northwestern part of the state. In 2001, he graduated from W.E.B. DuBois Honors College at Jackson State University. After acquiring a masters degree in philanthropy and development from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, McMillian, a community organizer, moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he set up his own consulting firm. (Basically, as I understand it, McMillian showed nonprofit organizations how to obtain federal grants.)

     Late in 2012, after Clarksdale mayor Henry Espy, Jr. announced that he was not running for re-election after more than 20 years in office, McMillian moved back to the capital of Coahoma County. In January 2013, the openly gay, 34-year-old black man announced his candidacy for mayor of Clarksdale. The democrat said as mayor he would tackle the town's high rates of crime and poverty.

     At eight in the morning of February 26, 2013, on U.S. Highway 26 near the Coahoma/Tallahatchie County line about 25 miles from Clarksdale, Lawrence Reed, while driving McMillian's SUV, crashed head-on into another vehicle. The collision injured the 22-year-old Reed as well as the two occupants of the other car. Paramedics transported Reed by air to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis. The driver and passenger of the other vehicle were treated in Mississippi.

     Because Marco McMillian was not in his SUV, Coahoma County Sheriff's Office deputies, suspecting foul play, began looking for him. Thirty minutes after responding to the traffic accident, officers found McMillian's body lying in the woods near the Mississippi-Yazoo levee ten miles from Clarksdale. A set of tire tracks led to the spot at the edge of the woods where the corpse had been dumped.

     The circumstances of this case led to police speculation that Mr. McMillian had been the victim of a carjacking committed by a stranger, or had been murdered for some other reason by a man he knew. According to a sheriff's office spokesperson, investigators did not believe the murder had anything to do with politics or the fact the victim was gay. The Coahoma County coroner has not revealed the cause of death in the case.

     On February 28, 2013, according to a sheriff's office news release, Lawrence Reed, a black man, had been charged in Marco McMillian's death. While his current address is unknown, Reed had once resided in a Clarksdale apartment complex. The police have not revealed the motive behind McMillian's murder.

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