Health Care

Body Of CDC Researcher Who Had Disappeared Is Found

Timothy Cunningham a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee

Atlanta fire-rescue department spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford said at a news conference Thursday that a fisherman found the body of 35-year-old Timothy Cunningham on Tuesday and called authorities.

Gorniak observed that the decomposition of Cunningham's body is "consistent" with having been submerged in the water since the day he went missing. Since his February disappearance, his friends, family and colleagues from the CDC have been questioned, and a $10,000 reward was offered to anyone who could provide information.

Cunningham, a commander in the Public Health Service who responded to public health emergencies including the Ebola virus and the Zika virus, disappeared on February 12 after he said he was sick and left his Atlanta office.

"We have no indications to this point that were was any foul play", Atlanta Police Department Major Michael O'Connor said in a Thursday news conference.

Atlanta police said that the body was badly decomposed when they discovered it, but there were no signs of foul play, according to Dayton Daily News. Fulton County's Chief Medical Examiner Jan Gorniak, DO, said the positive identification was confirmed by dental records and that the preliminary cause of death was drowning. They also flew over the area in a helicopter in hopes of finding him dead or alive. "As a parent, you have indicators when things are just not right with your child, and that was the case".

"He was an avid collector of these kinds of crystals or rocks or rare stones", O'Connor said.

When he left work later in the day, it was the last time he was known to have been seen alive.

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Police and the CDC released conflicting information about Cunningham in the days after his disappearance.

He received his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard's school of public health.

The agency also closed with a message to Cunningham directly.

Cunningham responded to several public health emergencies during his time with the CDC, including the Ebola and Zika viruses.

"The major drivers of this are decreases in numerous leading causes of death, such as heart disease, cancer and stroke", Cunningham told NPR's Rob Stein.

"Barring some new information coming forward - and obviously we're checking, you know, we'll check video, we'll check places he might have got access to the river - but barring new information coming forward we may never be able to tell you how he got into the river", O'Connor said.