Family of slain LGBT Mississippi mayoral candidate hires attorney in Trayvon Martin case
CLARKSDALE, Miss. – Nearly three months after the battered body of Clarksdale, Miss. mayoral candidate Marco Watson McMillian was found dumped in a field, his parents have hired Parks and Crump, the Florida-based civil rights law firm representing Trayvon Martin’s parents.
On February 27, McMillan’s naked body was found on a levee near the Mississippi River between the towns of Sherard and Rena Lara, Miss. — some 25 miles from Clarksdale. Autopsy reports released this month revealed that the 33-year-old had been strangled, beaten, set on fire and dragged.
Desperately seeking answers, McMillan’s parents, Amos and Patricia Unger, held a press conference at their home last week, hoping to uncover the events leading up to their son’s death and to determine if McMillian’s death should be classified as a hate crime because he was gay, or if his death was politically motivated because he was running for mayor.
“We are asking for the justice department to get involved in this investigation,” Daryl Parks, a partner in the law firm, said during the press conference. “It becomes clear that Marco McMillian was tortured by someone and we don’t believe this one person did it alone.”
Suspect in custody ‘confessed,’ police claim
The Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department said 22-year-old Shelby, Miss., native Lawrence Reed is in custody and that he allegedly confessed to the murder. Reed reportedly told friends sexual advances from the slain politician caused him — a heterosexual — to “snap.”
“There is no way we can accept the gentleman’s little explanation of, ‘Hey, I strangled him.’ Well, where are the choke marks on the neck? There’s a lot more to it,” Parks said.
Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, is working with the family to publicize the case.
“There are no marks on the neck or the throat in the autopsy report,” she said. “And the autopsy report makes a particular statement that there are no marks on the neck or the throat. So somebody’s lying…[McMillian] was bruised over his body and he was suffocated. So how does that happen…by one person who is smaller than him…The facts that we know so far are not adding up. ”
According to the autopsy report, which was obtained by theGrio, McMilllan had blunt force trauma to the head, back and legs consistent with a beating. He also had hemorrhaging in his right eye which evidenced his cause of death as “asphyxia of undetermined etiology.”
The report further said it was unclear if the second and third degree burns found all over Marco’s body were inflicted before or after his death.
Scotty Meredith, the Coahoma County coroner, said he was so troubled by the report that he refused to sign the death certificate.
“There are inconsistencies in the autopsy report,” Meredith told theGrio. “His cause of death was asphyxiation — origin unknown, beating and burning. But on the one-page provisional report that was done right after the autopsy, it said the burns were perimortem which means after death, and that no cause of death was identifiable evidenced by non-lethal blunt trauma to the head, meaning it didn’t kill him. But in the second report it said he died from blunt force trauma to the head.”
Meredith, who pronounced McMillian dead at the scene, said McMillian was killed at another location and moved to where his body was found.
“He was dragged under a barbed wire fence which is consistent with what Reed said he did,” Meredith said. “He was dragged between 30 to 40 feet. And not by a vehicle which the community first misinterpreted when they heard dragging. But he was dragged by a person.”
Meredith, who delivered the death certificate to McMillian‘s family this week — signed by the State’s Chief Medical Examiner Mark LeVaughn — said the controversy surrounding McMillian‘s death is a ‘first‘ in his nearly 25 years as coroner.
“I don’t know why it’s this way,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve seen an autopsy report so complicated where I was not comfortable signing the death certificate. And it’s caused a lot of people to have a lot of questions. The family has a lot of questions.”
Next: political aspirations a factor?