(CBS/AP) JACKSON, Miss. - Authorities said the Mississippi man charged with murdering the mayoral candidate Marco McMillian was driving the candidate's car when he crashed on a highway the day McMillian disappeared.
An investigation began Tuesday when McMillian's SUV crashed into another car on U.S. Highway 49 near the Coahoma and Tallahatchie county lines. Lawrence Reed, 22, was driving the car, but McMillian was not in it, according to sheriff's department spokesman Will Rooker.
McMillian's body was found the next day near the Mississippi River levee between Sherard and Rena Lara, Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith said. Warren Strain, a spokesman with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said the autopsy was completed but toxicology and other test results are pending, and no cause of death will be released until the report is completed.
The Coahoma County Sheriff's Department said in a news release that Reed was charged in the death of 34-year-old McMillian, a candidate for mayor of Clarksdale. Campaign spokesman Jarod Keith said McMillian's bid was noteworthy because he may have been the first openly gay man to be a viable candidate for public office in Mississippi.
The sheriff's department has not released a possible motive for the crime.
Reed was taken to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis after the car wreck, and was listed in good condition on Thursday, a hospital official said. Little is known about him or how he was acquainted with McMillian.
Sissiretta Melton, 33, said she knew McMillian since they were in seventh grade in Clarksdale and described his death as "dramatic" for those who loved him and his community.
"It's just terrifying to everybody that knew him personally because you ask, 'Why?'" Melton said. "Why would it happen to someone like him?"
Melton said people knew early on that McMillian had a bright future and that he could have left Mississippi behind for good.
"He knew this town needed him," she said. "Kids here have nothing. We don't even have a decent movie theater. He wanted to bring those things here."
Keith also said McMillian had big plans for Clarksdale, a town of about 17,800 people best known as a hub of Blues music.
Although Keith said McMillian's sexual orientation was noteworthy in the conservative state, Melton took issue with the way McMillian has been characterized at times since his death, saying he was not one to flaunt his sexuality, but was comfortable with who he was.
"He was just a standup guy," she said.
Those who knew McMillian said he had connections across the country, and hoped to put those to use for Clarksdale.
McMillian forged ties while serving for four years as international executive director of the historically black Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Photos on McMillian's website and Facebook page show him with a younger Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat.
McMillian was also CEO of MWM & Associates, described on its website as a consulting firm for nonprofit organizations. In addition to his role at the fraternity from 2007 to 2011, McMillian had previously worked at Alabama A&M University and at Jackson State University.