An employee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was reported missing more than seven weeks ago was found drowned in a river not far from his house, with no sign of foul play, authorities said Thursday.
Police are awaiting a final report from the medical examiner, but unless new information comes forward, the investigation is expected to conclude soon, officials said.
About a week before his disappearance, Cunningham was told by his CDC supervisor that he would not get a promotion; an explanation was given to him on February 12 - the Monday he went missing. Posts online presented Cunningham as a flu vaccine whistleblower.
But Cunningham worked in the CDC's chronic disease unit, not in the section that deals with infectious disease, according to authorities. He had also called in sick February 8 and 9, the two previous workdays, O'Connor said.
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On Thursday O'Connor said the circumstances around Cunningham's own death may never be understood. During an April 5 press conference, Atlanta police could not explain why the CDC worker did not have any of his belongings with him when he died. Cunningham was wearing his favorite jogging shoes when he was found by a group of fishermen, police said.
The condition of the body is "consistent" with Cunningham having been in the river since he first went missing, Gorniak said. When his body was discovered, authorities said they found three crystals inside one of his pockets, which were items O'Connor said Cunningham was known to collect. In his home, they found his keys, phone, wallet containing his credit and debit cards and identification, and they even found his passport. He earned a spot previous year in the Atlanta Business Chronicle's 40 Under 40 list, a who's who of the city's young standouts. The CDC did not identify any problems with his job performance or workplace issues beyond the promotion denial, O'Connor said.
By outward appearances, Cunningham seemed to have a successful career. His work as a Public Health Service commander including responding to public health emergencies such as the Ebola virus and Zika virus. So was his beloved Tibetan spaniel, which concerned his family. Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. issued a statement on March 12 addressing the Morehouse and Harvard graduate saying that if "Tim reads this message", they hope that he comes home soon.
Four times since their son went missing, Cunningham's parents have been told that a body had been found.