Published March 05, 2013
JACKSON, Miss. – A Mississippi congressman is asking 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, 34, 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.
McMillian's campaign had said he was one of the first openly gay, viable candidates for public office in Mississippi.
The state's hate crimes law does not cover acts motivated by bias against a victim's sexual orientation. However, a federal hate crimes law does. Thompson said the FBI could determine if a hate crimes charge should be considered.
A 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.
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 coroner told family members that someone dragged McMillian's body under a fence and left it near a Mississippi River levee.
Sheriff's deputies last week charged Lawrence Reed, 22, with murder in the case.
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."