UNDATED (CNN) -- The death of Mississippi mayoral candidate Marco McMillian has shocked his friends and family.
Gale Moore watched Marco McMillian grow up, from singing in the choir of this church, to becoming one of Ebony Magazine's up and coming African American leaders.
The owner of a business consulting firm, to non-profits, many considered him a rising star, even having his picture taken with a younger Barack Obama. McMillian moved from Memphis, back to his hometown of Clarksdale to run for mayor. In the short time he was here, something went terribly wrong.
The Coahoma County Sheriff's Office is charging Lawrence Reed with the murder of Marco McMillian. Investigators considered the 34-year-old missing after responding to a head-on collision involving his vehicle Tuesday morning.
Lawrence Reed was behind the wheel of his car both Reed and the other driver were rushed to nearby hospitals with no sign of McMillian until the next day when his body was found in a wooded area just outside just of Clarksdale. Will Rooker with the sheriff's office says, It's too early in the investigation to determine motive, so I can't confirm anything at this time."
The city's first openly gay candidate for mayor, McMillian's family and friends tell CNN they do not believe he was targeted because of his sexual orientation.
His parents say they don't believe McMillian and Reed were even friends, but with so many questions surrounding his death, many in this community are struggling to make sense of the murder of a man who came back home to make a difference. Mario Brown, former president of the Memphis Alumni Chapter says, "He was going to do some great things for Clarksdale and apparently it's a city that really needed some change and somebody like Marco that I know for sure would have brought about that change."
In the church where McMillian grew up, Gale Moore says their loss is felt well beyond these walls. She says, "For years we felt like a dying city and he provided us with a little hope that maybe we'd be on the road to getting better."