Body of CDC Doctor Who Went Missing in February Found in River — and Police Believe He Drowned
Cunningham's body was found Tuesday evening in Chattahoochee River
A body found in an Atlanta river has been identified as Dr. Timothy Cunningham, a scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who went missing in February, PEOPLE confirms.
Atlanta police believe Cunningham drowned and that no foul play was involved in his death, they announced at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Cunningham was last seen alive leaving work February 12, after complaining that he felt ill.
On Thursday morning, Atlanta police confirmed that the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the body recovered from Chattahoochee River belonged to the Harvard-educated epidemiologist.
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Cunningham’s disappearance was called “unusual” by Atlanta authorities.
Left behind in his tidy yellow home was the dog he doted on, Mr. “Bo” Bojangles, along with Cunningham’s ID, credit cards and passport, according to police in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. His car was parked in the garage; his keys, wallet and phone all were safely locked inside the residence.
“This is an extremely unusual set of circumstances,” Atlanta police major Michael O’Connor said at a Feb. 27 news conference. “Every single belonging we were aware of was located in the residence.”
He added: “It is not common in missing-person cases for us to find someone’s entire belongings.”
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The unmarried scientist, 35, was a team leader in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. His career had been marked by accomplishments including co-authoring 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.
“Tim was always the golden boy,” says a colleague at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where Cunningham prominently studied heath patterns related to race, gender and geography. For his work, the Atlanta Business Chronicle featured the 35-year-old last October as one of its “40-Under-40” rising stars in the region.
“He expressed a strong desire to improve the health of others,” journalist Tonya Layman, who interviewed Cunningham for his Chronicle profile, previously PEOPLE. “I was really impressed with his intellect and his passion for the work he was doing.”