May 9, 2013 10:29:20 AM
JACKSON -- Relatives of a slain Mississippi mayoral candidate are renewing their push for a federal investigation amid their complaints that local officials are withholding information about the case.
Clarksdale mayoral candidate Marco McMillian's nude and battered body was found Feb. 27 near a Mississippi River levee. The case drew national attention after his campaign said he was the first viable, openly gay candidate for office in Mississippi.
McMillian's sexuality was not an issue in his campaign, but because the 33-year-old aspiring politician was gay and black, some speculated that his death might have been a hate crime.
The suspect in the case also is black.
McMillian's parents are planning a news conference Thursday in Clarksdale with the National Black Justice Coalition and a lawyer from the firm of Parks & Crump, which also represented the family of Trayvon Martin. Martin was the teenager whose February 2012 death at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., sparked protests and outrage.
"Just like they had to make people conscious in Sanford, Florida, and the rest of the country, we're hoping to bring that same level of attention to this homicide, this murder," coalition executive director and CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Attorney Daryl Parks told The Associated Press on Wednesday that McMillian's parents want a "fair and efficient investigation" but are concerned that so little information has been released about the death.
"We are simply demanding that there be a federal investigation," Parks said.
Lawrence Reed is charged with murder in the case.
"Some say the two were romantically involved while others are pleading the 'gay panic' defense, insinuating that Marco McMillian made unwanted advances to the murder suspect, Lawrence Reed," the National Black Justice Coalition said in the announcement of the news conference.