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Missing CDC Employee Timothy Cunningham Found Dead Two Months After He Vanished

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The body of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee who mysteriously vanished almost two months ago was recovered this week from a river in Atlanta, police said Thursday.

Timothy Cunningham, a 35-year-old Harvard-educated leader within the nation’s health protection agency, was found dead late Tuesday night in the Chattahoochee River, which runs near his home, police said Thursday. A medical examiner identified his remains and said the cause of death was drowning.

Police said there is currently no indication that foul play was involved, and there were no signs of trauma on his body to indicate he died of anything but drowning.

“Barring new information coming forward, we may never be able to tell you how he got into the river,” Major Michael O’Connor of the Atlanta Police Department said at a press conference on Thursday. “We just don’t have those answers at this time.”

Cunningham, who police described as “an avid collector” of rare stones, had three crystals in his pocket and was found wearing his favorite jogging shoes, O’Connor said.

Cunningham’s parents had reported him missing on Feb. 14, two days after he found out he wasn’t getting a promotion at work and stopped contacting members of his close-knit family. Cunningham, who went home sick from work on Feb. 12, had also apparently left behind his dog, wallet, car and phone in his home, which alarmed his parents, who had traveled to Atlanta from Maryland to check on him, police said.

Cunningham’s mother told officers that her son had been “upset about a promotion at work,” according to a police report. During a news conference on Feb. 27, police said they have “no reason” to believe the missed promotion had anything to do with his disappearance. Authorities initially offered a $10,000 reward for any information that would lead to an arrest and indictment in the case.


Timothy CunninghamPhoto courtesy of the Atlanta Police Department

Cunningham, who has two advanced degrees from Harvard University, studied the health differences between people from various backgrounds, including race, gender, geography and class, according to his biography on the CDC’s website. Cunningham has also been deployed to help during public health emergencies, including Superstorm Sandy and the Ebola and Zika viruses, his biography says.

In a statement in late February, the CDC said Cunningham was a “highly respected” member of the agency. “Our thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time,” CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said.

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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com