By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com March 05 2013 4:12 PM ET
The family of a brutally slain up-and-coming gay politician in Mississippi has demanded that authorities take a closer look into the murder of Marco McMillian, who was running for mayor of Clarksdale, Miss., and was considered to be one of the first viable openly gay office seekers in the state.
McMillian's family said they want his death to be investigated as a hate crime, due to the nature of the incident. However, the Coahoma County Sheriff's Department said they would not explore the option, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper reports. They have also been tight-lipped with media and McMillian's family about the details of his death, his godfather Carter Womack said.
“He was very concerned about his safety—people had tried to talk him out of the race,” Womack said to the paper. “The family feels this ought to be investigated a hate crime.”
The candidate's body was found near the Mississippi River last week after he had apparently been beaten, dragged, and set ablaze. His body was recovered a day after his SUV was involved in a head-on collision. McMillian was not in the car at the time of the accident, as investigators believe he had already been dead, and his body had been dumped several hours prior. The man driving the SUV was Lawrence Reed, 22, who was arrested in connection to McMillian's death. Reed was initially airlifted to a Memphis hospital, but is now being held at the Shelby County Jail in Memphis.
At the time of Reed's arrest, the sheriff’s department did not release information on any theories about a motive, although the county coroner said he believed politics was not a factor. While Mississippi's hate crime laws cover race, gender, and religion, it does not protect against crimes spurred by antigay bias.
Some believe that Reed and McMillian knew each other prior to the murder, but McMillian's family said they had no knowledge of a prior relationship.
McMillian, 33, was the CEO of MWM & Associates, a consulting firm that works with non-profit organizations.