This was not unexpected but there has been a disturbing development in the tragic case of Marco McMillian, the 34-year-old fundraising executive who was running for mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Murder charges were filed against 22-year-old Lawrence Reed on Thursday. Police investigators and several of the suspects' friends have said the suspect is claiming a "gay panic" defense, according to new reports.
"Friends of Lawrence Reed say a late-night encounter between McMillian and Reed may have caused Reed to snap," reported Memphis' ABC 24.
Friends say Reed and McMillian met at a Clarksdale bar a few weeks ago, and the two became fast friends. The same friends say the two were supposed to go to a party together on Monday night in the nearby town of Walls. Next thing anyone knew, the friends say Reed's girlfriend received a call from Reed. "She said she was listening to everything that was going on, how the guy was trying to get Lawrence to have a homosexual activity," Derric Crump, Reed's friend said.
McMillian's friends say they doubt that's what led to murder "He was such, such a beautiful person. I mean he did not deserve it. Really didn't." said Tamara Moore, a longtime friend of McMillian.
The Clarion-Ledger confirms this version with investigators—but their report adds that McMillian's friends claim the two had a sexual relationship. "[The homicide] stemmed from a personal incident, either between two lovers or between a gay man and a straight man whose signals got mixed."
Reed allegedly snapped, strangled McMillian, then drove McMillian’s SUV to the levee west of Clarksdale and tossed his body near the river. Friends of McMillian, however, say the two men were romantically involved and quarreled immediately before the slaying. "They were having an affair," said 18-year-old Carlos Jones. "They got to tussling."
Afterward, Reed allegedly drove around in McMillian’s SUV until 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when he collided head-on with another vehicle on U.S. 49 near the maximum-security Tallhatchie County Correctional Facility.
McMillian's body was discovered near a Mississippi River levee on Wednesday morning.
McMillian announced his candidacy for mayor last month and was described as "one of the 1st viable openly #LGBT candidates in Mississippi" by the Victory Fund, which helps elect openly LGBT candidates. "Jarod Keith, a spokesman for his campaign, said it was significant because he was believed to be the first openly gay candidate to run for office in the state," reported the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
McMillian apparently had a distinguished career as a fundraising executive, according to the biography at Marco McMillian for Mayor. McMillan most recently served as International Executive Director of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Previously he was a development executive at Alabama A&M and Jacskon State, raising helping to raise "$38 million... and more than $16 million" respectively, the bio reports. "McMillian was named in Mississippi Business Journal’s 'Top 40 Under 40' and was recognized by EBONY in 2004 as one of the nation’s leaders who are 30 and under."
"This is a tragic and horrible crime," Dr. Ravi K Perry told Rod 2.0. Perry is assistant professor of political science at Mississippi State University, and was a friend of Marco McMillian and and adviser to his political campaign. JET featured the wedding of Dr. Ravi Perry and Paris Prince in its December 10 2012 issue. "Marco McMillian had so much potential."
Reed "is listed in good condition" at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. Lawrence Reed is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday morning. Prosecutors are expected to request his extradition to neighboring Mississippi.