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Police make arrest in death of Mississippi mayoral candidate

Friday, March 1, 2013 - 9:22am

(CNN) -- Authorities in Mississippi are being tight-lipped about the death of a mayoral candidate and the arrest of a man found alone in the candidate's damaged SUV.

On Thursday, the Coahoma County Sheriff's Office announced that a suspect, Lawrence Reed, faces a murder charge in the death of Marco McMillian.

Reed, 22, was found in McMillian's wrecked SUV on Tuesday morning and was taken to a hospital. He is in good condition, the Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

On Wednesday, authorities found McMillian's body near a levee between Sherard and Rena Lara, two unincorporated communities about 15 minutes away from Clarksdale in northwestern Mississippi's Delta region.

Officials have yet to comment on why or how McMillian was killed.

"It's too early in the investigation to know what the motive is," Sheriff's Office spokesman Will Rooker said of McMillian's death.

McMillian's body was taken to the capital, Jackson, for an autopsy.

Patricia McMillian said that even though media reports since her son's death have labeled him as openly gay, his death likely had nothing to do with his sexual orientation.

She told CNN that her son had told only family and friends that he was gay.

"He did not announce in public that he was gay," she said, adding, "I don't think he was attacked because he was gay."

She said that she didn't know Reed.

"We never heard of him," said Amos Unger, Marco McMillian's stepfather.

McMillian's Facebook page shows a glimpse at a man who was politically ambitious. It includes a picture of McMillian posing with President Barack Obama. His campaign motto: "Moving Clarksdale forward."

McMillian's short biography on Facebook said he had spent much of his career raising money for universities after he graduated from Jackson State with a degree in elementary education. He also received a master's in philanthropy and development from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota.

Condolences flooded the page, including one from a man who wrote that McMillian, 34, was one of Clarksdale's best leaders.

"The shocking news of Marco's death is beyond difficult for us to process," his campaign team posted Thursday. "We remember Marco as a bold and passionate public servant, whose faith informed every aspect of his life."

Bill Luckett, who like McMillian was running for mayor as a Democrat, said he thought the politician was "cordial and articulate."

"It's a bizarre situation," Luckett said. "A sad story."

McMillian picked up a host of awards in recent years. In 2009, he received the Thurgood Marshall Prestige Award from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. In 2004, Ebony magazine recognized him as one of the country's top leaders younger than 30.

His fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, released a lengthy note about McMillian's accomplishments Thursday.

McMillian "made an incredible difference in his community" it read, adding that he was the executive director of the fraternity from 2007 to 2011.

McMillian secured the first federal contract to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS among African-Americans for the fraternity and helped it form partnerships with organizations such as the U.S. Marine Corps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in discussing the disease.

-- CNN's Rich Phillips contributed to this report.

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