Body of Missing CDC Scientist Found in Atlanta River, Police Confirm

Timothy Cunningham a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee

Timothy Cunningham a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee

Police confirmed that scientist Dr. Timothy Cunningham's body was found in the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta.

On March 12, exactly one month after Cunningham went missing, the CDC's acting director, Anne Schuchat, released a statement saying the agency had not given up hope that he would be found alive.

The body of Timothy Cunningham, 35, was found Tuesday night along the bank of the Chattahoochee River, according to the Atlanta Police Department, after people fishing saw a body and called 911.

Cunningham, a CDC scientist and researcher responding to public health emergencies such as the Ebola and Zika viruses, vanished on February 12.

"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.

Maj. Michael O'Connor of the Atlanta Police Department stressed that "things are fluid and things can change", but as of Thursday afternoon, there were no indications of foul play.

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Based on everything they have found so far, the medical examiner's office determined the cause of death as drowning finding no other obvious cause or signs of physical trauma before death.

Police said the body was recovered in an area that was not easily accessible. At the time of his disappearance, police were baffled by what they called an extremely unusual set of circumstances.

Before Cunningham's sudden disappearance, investigators said the epidemiologist had learned he was being passed up for a promotion, but the CDC later said that wasn't the case.

Cunningham's parents were notified by police about four bodies found as part of the search, only to be told later that none of them was of their son.

Cunningham's home is not far from the river, O'Connor said. Officials with the CDC said he actually received an early promotion to Commander, effective July 1, which contradicted what was said during a police news conference. He worked on public health emergencies including Superstorm Sandy, the Ebola outbreak and the Zika virus. Dr. Cunningham's parents later discovered their son's cellphone, wallet, keys, vehicle and dog unattended at his home on February 14. The dog, known as Bo, had twice accompanied Cunningham to Harvard, where he earned his master's and doctoral degrees.

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