Missing CDC worker found dead two months later

Timothy Cunningham

Almost two months after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher mysteriously vanished after leaving CDC headquarters in Atlanta, he has been found dead, police said.

Preliminary findings show the CDC worker who went missing almost two months ago may have drowned, the Fulton County medical examiner said Thursday.

At Thursday's press conference, Fulton County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Gorniak said that the preliminary cause of death was drowning.

Cunningham, a CDC commander, went mysteriously missing on February 12.

Atlanta Police Department Major Michael O'Connor said the river is located fairly close to Cunningham's house and that he was known to go for runs.

The 35-year-old, who was last seen on February 12, did not have any signs of injuries or foul play to his body and the preliminary results of an autopsy determined that he likely drowned, Fulton County Medical Examiner Jan Gorniak said.

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. Stafford said that rescue crews had to use boats and special equipment to reach Cunningham's body because it was located in hard terrain in a "remote area not easily accessible".

Stafford says the body was partially submerged in water and mud on the west bank of the Chattahoochee River. At the time of his disappearance, police were baffled by what they called an extremely unusual set of circumstances.

The CDC denied those reports and said Cunningham received an early promotion for his exemplary performance at work. For months, authorities scavenged for clues on where the 35-year-old may have been.

With more than 16 years of experience in public health, he'd co-authored 28 publications on topics ranging from sleep deprivation to pulmonary disease, with a special focus on how health issues affect minorities. Atlanta police responded by doubling down on their version of events, citing the CDC as the source of the information.

Family members expressed grave concern after several days passed without anyone being able to reach Cunningham. He held two degrees from Harvard University. He worked on public health emergencies including Superstorm Sandy, the Ebola outbreak and the Zika virus. WSB-TV reported that the esteemed doctor had texted his mother at 5:21 a.m. and then called her at 9:12 a.m. on Feb.12.

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