Miss. congressman asks FBI to review ‘unconscionable’ slaying of openly gay mayoral candidate
ABOVE PHOTO: THIS JAN. 20, 2007 PHOTO SHOWS MARCO MCMILLIAN, 34, a candidate for mayor of Clarksdale, Miss., who was found dead on the Mississippi River levee Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 between Sherard and Rena Lara, Miss. Authorities say the case is being investigated as a homicide. McMillian had served as international executive director of Phi Beta Sigma Fra-ternity, Inc. His campaign said he may have been the first openly gay man to be a viable candidate for public office in Mississippi.
(AP Photo/The Clarksdale Press Register, Troy Catchings)
By Emily Wagster Pettus and Holbrook Mohr
JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi congressman on Tuesday asked the FBI to review the slaying of an openly gay mayoral candidate to determine if any federal laws might have been violated.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s district includes Clarksdale, where Marco McMillian was running. McMillian, 33, was found slain last week in a rural area nearby.
Thompson, a Democrat, said Tuesday that he has confidence in the sheriff investigating the death but that he wants the FBI to get involved because that’s what McMillian’s family wants.
“If another set of eyes looking at it would provide additional information, I think it would be helpful to the McMillian family,” Thompson told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
An FBI spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment after hours.
McMillian’s campaign had said he was one of the first openly gay, viable candidates for public office in Mississippi.
Coahoma County sheriff’s spokesman Will Rooker said the investigation continues and authorities are looking at all possibilities, including whether hate crime laws would apply.
Mississippi’s hate crimes law covers acts motivated by bias against a victim’s race but not sexual orientation. However, a federal hate crimes law covers bias against sexual orientation. Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the FBI could determine if a hate crimes charge should be considered.
PHOTO: LAWRENCE REED, 22, poses for a portrait. Reed, has been charged in the death of mayoral candidate, Marco McMil-lian, in the Mississippi Delta.
(AP Photo/Coahoma County (Miss.) Sheriff’s Office)
McMillian was black, as is the man charged last week with murder in the case, Lawrence Reed, 22.
The cause of death has not been released. An autopsy was performed, but toxicology tests are pending, and authorities say it could take two weeks to get those results.
In a news release, Thompson said: “The level of violence shown in this incident is unconscionable and the perpetrator of this atrocious act should be held accountable to the full extent of the law.”
McMillian’s godfather, Carter Womack, said the Coahoma County coroner told family members that someone dragged McMillian’s body under a fence and left it near a Mississippi River levee.
The victim’s family had said in a statement that the body was “beaten, dragged and burned,” leading some to assume it was dragged by a car.
Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith said he doesn’t want anyone to make inaccurate assumptions about the death.
He told AP on Tuesday night that McMillian was not dragged by a car, he was dragged out of a vehicle by someone and his body left near the levee. He said the burns were postmortem and in a couple of small places on the body.
“My concern is to determine the manner and cause of death and let law enforcement do their jobs,” Meredith said, adding that he wants to help the family in any way he can. “It’s all about getting closure for them, and the truth.”
Another person with direct knowledge of the investigation confirmed to AP that McMillian’s body was bruised and there were burns on at least one area. The person wasn’t authorized to publicly comment and spoke on condition of anonymity.
An investigation began Feb. 26 after McMillian’s SUV slammed head-on into another vehicle on U.S. Highway 49 near the Coahoma and Tallahatchie county lines.
Reed was driving the car, but McMillian was not in it, authorities say. McMillian’s body was found the next day.
Thompson said he has known McMillian for years. Thompson said his daughter and McMillian attended Jackson State University at the same time, and one of his congressional staffers was McMillian’s fraternity sponsor.
Thompson told AP: “He was a very talented young man who had a bright future.”
+ Top Story
Dr. Kermit Gosnell waived his right to appeal in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. Gosnell, 72, was convicted Monday of first-degree murder in a case that became a flashpoint in the nation’s abortion debate.
The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, a five-year low. Layoffs have returned to pre-recession levels, a trend that could lead to more hiring.
The airline announced Thursday that it plans to offer daily nonstop flights to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and South Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.
PepsiCo said it immediately pulled the 60-second spot after learning that people found it offensive. The ad was part of a series developed by African-American rapper Tyler, The Creator, and depicted a battered white woman on crutches being urged to identify a suspect out of a lineup of black men.
Richie Havens, the folk singer and guitarist who was the first performer at Woodstock, died Monday at age 72. Havens died of a heart attack in New Jersey, his family said in a statement. He was born in Brooklyn.
"A Nation at Risk," the report issued 30 years ago by President Ronald Reagan's Education Department, was meant as a wake-up call for the country. It spelled out where the United States was coming up short in education and what steps could be taken to avert a crisis.