McMillian's mother said she was not certain of her son's sexual orientation.
"If I had actually known that he was gay, it would not have changed my love of feelings for him," she said.
Reed's friend said Reed panicked when McMillian came on to him.
"I think the boy just snapped and went cuckoo."
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs issued a statement saying it had learned that Reed might use "gay panic" as his defense if and when he is tried. It's the same tactic that was used to defend the killers of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student who was tortured and killed near Laramie in 1998.
The so-called gay-panic defense argues that a defendant's assault against an LGBT person should be excused or classified as a lesser charge because the revelation of a victim's sexual orientation caused the perpetrator to lose control and turn violent.
In an effort to protect gay victims of heinous crimes, the American Bar Association recently passed a resolution that would make it harder for lawyers to use that defense.
But that is how Reed's friend views what happened. When he showed up at her house, he told her he wanted to kill himself; he was already "going to hell" for having engaged in immoral acts.
Then, he turned left out of her driveway, back onto Highway 49. She called 911 and told police what Reed had told her.
CNN requested a copy of the transcript of the 911 call as well as Reed's arrest report and other documents pertaining to this case. The request is still pending. The sheriff did not respond to an interview request.
Reed was driving south, toward the Tallahatchie County line, when he hit an oncoming car head-on. Deputies responded to the accident about 8:30 a.m.
The driver of the other car, Chris Talley, was taken to a local hospital where deputies gave him shocking information, he told WMC-TV in Memphis: He learned there that Reed told a deputy that he had killed someone the night before and dumped the body. The alleged confession would also later be cited in an autopsy report.
All that day, there was no word of McMillian. His mother texted people furiously, desperate to know her son's whereabouts. Deep inside, she feared the worst.
Memories of Emmett Till
The next morning, Scotty Meredith got a call from the chief sheriff's deputy in Coahoma County. Authorities had found a body and were waiting for Meredith, the county coroner, to come examine it before it was moved.
Meredith had received countless such calls. He's no stranger to death.
His first encounter came when he was only 12. His daddy died of lung cancer. He was curious about what was done to his father's body, and by the time he was 15, he'd started working in the funeral business. Now he's 50, and a downtown funeral home bears his name.
Clarksdale's high homicide rate keeps him busy. He's had to walk many a mother to the morgue. They tell him: "You know, Mr. Meredith, I don't have to worry about where my son's at anymore."
Clarksdale is one of those towns where a lot of people know one another, but Meredith had never encountered McMillian. The first time he saw him was down from the earthen levee that ran between the unincorporated communities of Rena Lara and Sherard.
Meredith parked his car and walked down the hilly pasture where fresh tire tracks had led deputies to a barbed-wire fence that keeps grazing horses and cows inside the levee board property line. Beyond it are thick trees and then the river.
McMillian's body had been dragged under the fence.
Meredith saw a naked man with a burn the size of a half-dollar on his left hand. He had a few blisters, cuts and bruises here and there, and his right eye was swollen.
Meredith bagged McMillian's hands and feet to protect them in case they turned up evidence and put him in a body bag. He took out his cell phone and clicked a picture before sending the body away to Jackson for a state medical examiner to conduct an autopsy.
Then, Meredith went to see Unger at her home.
"I told the sheriff that his mom needs to know about her son -- doesn't matter whether he's 3 or 33."