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An autopsy report says a man admitted to killing a Mississippi mayoral candidate in February and that the victim died from lack of oxygen, but it doesn’t give an exact reason for the death beyond calling it a homicide.
The report says blunt force trauma most likely contributed to Clarksdale mayoral candidate Marco McMillian’s death, but the cause of death is listed as “asphyxia by undetermined etiology,” which is the medical branch dealing with causes. That means McMillian died from a lack of oxygen, but exactly what caused that could not be determined.
“Additional autopsy findings that most likely contributed to his death are multiple areas of blunt force trauma to the head that are consistent with a beating,” Dr. Mark LeVaughn, the state medical examiner, wrote in the report dated May 1.
McMillian’s death on Feb. 27 got significant attention after his campaign said he was the first viable, openly gay candidate for office in Mississippi. McMillian’s sexual orientation was not an issue in his campaign, but because McMillian was gay and black, some speculated that his death might have been a hate crime.
The autopsy report said a suspect in the case “admitted to killing” McMillian and dumping his body near a Mississippi River levee in rural Coahoma County.
The suspect, Lawrence Reed, also is black. A spokesman for McMillian’s campaign has said he didn’t know Reed and wasn’t sure how McMillian was acquainted with him.
McMillian’s body was found one day after Reed crashed McMillian’s SUV head-on into another vehicle.
Reed was treated for injuries at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn., and charged with murder after his release from the hospital. He was returned to Coahoma County, Miss., and has been held without bond.
Will Rooker, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said he couldn’t comment on Friday because the investigation is ongoing.
Rooker said he doesn’t know the name of Reed’s lawyer.
Without naming Reed, the autopsy report said the man who was in the wreck in McMillian’s SUV “admitted to killing Mr. McMillian and dumping his body near the levee.” Authorities have previously said that Reed was alone when he crashed McMillian’s vehicle.
The report said McMillian’s body was unclothed.
The report also said there were abrasions and lacerations on McMillian’s head, back and legs and multiple “areas of second and third degree burns.”
A previous report, the preliminary finding from the autopsy on Feb. 28, said the cause of death was pending and that the trauma to McMillian’s head was “non-lethal.” That document also said the burns happened “peri-mortem,” meaning at or near the time of death.
The report said it could not be determined if the burns happened before or after McMillian’s death.
McMillian’s family released a statement March 3 that said his body was “beaten, dragged and burned,” leading some to assume it was dragged by a car.
But the coroner, Scotty Meredith, said at the time that McMillian was not dragged by a car, though he was dragged out of a vehicle by someone and his body left near the levee.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, asked the FBI on March 5 to review the case for possible hate crime charges.
Daniel McMullen, the special agent in charge in Mississippi, has said the agency has been monitoring the investigation since March 1.
The FBI could investigate whether a federal hate crime occurred. Federal law covers acts motivated by bias against sexual orientation, while Mississippi’s state law against hate crimes covers acts motivated by race, but not sexual orientation.