Published: Fri, April 06, 2018
Health Care | By Alice Shelton

Body Of Missing CDC Researcher Found, Police Confirm

Body Of Missing CDC Researcher Found, Police Confirm

"The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office has identified the body recovered in the Chattahoochee River in NW Atlanta late Tuesday to be missing CDC employee Timothy Cunningham", Atlanta police tweeted. Atlanta Police Department spokesman Carlos Campos made the announcement on Thursday.

There were no signs of foul play in the death of a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist who likely drowned, officials said Thursday. But tests, including a toxicology screening, are still pending.

Four times since their son went missing, Cunningham's parents have been told that a body had been found.

Fishermen found the severely decomposed body on Tuesday night about 400 yards upstream from where the Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway crosses the river, according to NBC News affiliate WXIA.

And yet many questions remain unanswered. Police planned a news conference for later Thursday.

Police previously said there was no evidence of foul play, but that it couldn't be ruled out.

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The only things police could confirm from the scene were that Cunningham was wearing his jogging suit where he was found and had three small crystals - similar to those police said he collected - in his pocket. O'Connor said the river wasn't that far from Cunningham's home. He had also called in sick February 8 and 9, the two previous workdays, O'Connor said. The 35-year-old left work early that day saying he wasn't feeling well, and wasn't seen again. All of his belongings - including wallet, keys and passport - were found inside his Atlanta home.

Cunningham had called his sister that morning and talked to his supervisor about a promotion he didn't receive, FOX5 Atlanta reported.

By outward appearances, Cunningham seemed to have a successful career. He held a master's degree and a doctorate from Harvard's School of Public Health. In a statement, the CDC said Cunningham received an "exceptional proficiency promotion" July 1 to the position of commander, an early promotion reflecting his excellence as an employee. He worked on public health emergencies including Superstorm Sandy, the Ebola outbreak and the Zika virus.

Last year Cunningham was quoted in an NPR report about the death rate declining among black Americans.

The preliminary cause of death appears to be drowning.

"Many younger African-Americans in their 20s, 30s and 40s are living and dying with chronic conditions that we more typically see in the older population", Cunningham told Stein.

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