Police investigate death of noted Mississippi education leader

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 3:13pm

Mystery surrounds the apparent killing of a mayoral candidate in Mississippi.

This week, local news in Clarksdale was feverish with reports that Marco McMillian's SUV had been found outside of town, but he was nowhere to be found.

Inside the vehicle was a man who police say was the driver.

Authorities found McMillian's body Wednesday morning near a levee between Sherard and Rena Lara, two unincorporated communities about 15 minutes away from Clarksdale.

The man in the vehicle -- who police are not naming and have not arrested -- was taken to a hospital. On Thursday, authorities told CNN that he is in good condition and is considered a person of interest in the investigation.

McMillian's body has been taken to Jackson, where an autopsy is under way. Results are expected later Thursday.

CNN spoke with the candidate's mother, Patricia McMillian, who wanted to dispel some speculation that her son's death has anything to do with his sexual orientation.

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

She said that she did not know the man who was found in her son's vehicle.

"We didn't even know him. We never heard of him," said Amos Unger, McMillian's stepfather.

The man and McMillian were not friends on Facebook, the parents said. They said they are sure that their son didn't know him.

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."

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 under 30 years old.

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 the awareness of 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.
 

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