Timothy Cunningham left work early on February 12, complaining of feeling ill.
The respected doctor with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t been seen since. When they couldn’t reach him, Cunningham’s worried parents drove from their home in Maryland to his in Atlanta, Georgia, to check on him. Once there, they found his wallet, keys and phone.
Even more troubling, the doctor’s dog, a Tibetan spaniel named Bo, had been left unattended in the home.
Those close to Cunningham say that the 35-year-old doctor wouldn’t have just disappeared. A Harvard-educated epidemiologist, he is a team leader in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. His career has been marked by accomplishments. He has co-authored 28 publications, focusing on how health issues affect minorities. He also worked on numerous public health emergencies, including the Ebola outbreak and the Zika virus.
Since he vanished, Cunningham’s parents say they have struggled with their emotions. “It takes you to a place that the light is not shining in,” his father, Terrell Cunningham, told CNN. “I won’t call it a dark place, but they are lows. This is extremely hard.”
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On four separate occasions, Cunningham’s parents have been told that a body has been found. All four times, they have learned that the body isn’t that of their son.
On the day he was last seen, Cunningham sent a text message to his mother at 5:21 a.m. “Are you awake?” he asked. She had her phone on silent mode, and did not see the text until later.
Since his disappearance, unfounded online conspiracy theories have swirled claiming that Cunningham was a whistleblower about the alleged dangers of the flu shot. It’s a rumor his parents say is false. “It is a lie,” his father told CNN. “It is not factual. Hopefully, he’ll come back and be able to address that.”
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On Tuesday afternoon, the Atlanta Police Department said that Cunningham was disappointed that he had been passed over for a promotion, but emphasized that there was no indication that it had anything to do with the disappearance.
“Dr. Cunningham is a highly respected member of our CDC community,” the CDC said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time.”
A $10,000 reward has been offered for information in the case.