Atlanta, Georgia, USA: The death of Dr Timothy Cunningham, 35, the Navy Commander and scientist deployed as Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been ruled as suicide by drowning, the Fulton County Medical Examiner said Tuesday.
Timothy Cunningham was reported missing Feb. 14 from his northwest Atlanta home. On April 3, the 35-year-old’s body was found in the Chattahoochee River.
Cunningham’s parents told investigators their son had not been diagnosed with depression, but did have mood swings, according to documents released by the Medical Examiner’s office.
His parents also questioned whether he could have been given some type of drug that changed his behavior in the days before his disappearance.
Toxicology tests performed on his body showed Cunningham had marijuana in his system, but there were no other significant findings, Dr. Jan Gorniak, chief medical examiner, told reporters. There were no signs of other trauma and it’s still unknown how he came to be in the river.
His parents and sister told investigators that in phone calls and text messages with Cunningham shortly before he disappeared, they noticed a difference in his tone. Atlanta police previously said Cunningham had been upset over not getting a promotion, though the CDC later said he had received a promotion several months prior to his disappearance.
Cunningham’s parents suspected something was wrong when they were unable to reach him by phone. The two drove from their Maryland home to their son’s Atlanta home, where they found all of his personal belongings inside the house, including his wallet, cellphone, SUV and beloved dog, Mr. Bojangles.
Fishermen spotted a body in the Chattahoochee on April 3, and two days later, the Medical Examiner’s office identified the remains as belonging to Cunningham.
Atlanta police have said the department’s investigation into Cunningham’s disappearance and death has been closed.
Hundreds attended the memorial service for Cunningham, a graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard University. Family and friends described a goal-oriented, driven man with a passion for helping others.
“It wasn’t just a career or job for him,” Capt. Marcella Law with the National Center for Chronic Disease told the crowd. “Tim felt that it was his calling to use his gift and change lives.”
EARLIER: Missing Navy Commander At CDC, Dr Timothy Cunningham Found Dead – Dr Timothy Cunningham, 35, the Navy Commander and scientist deployed as Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been found dead, nearly two months after he went missing, authorities said Thursday.
The body of Timothy Cunningham was found Tuesday in the Chattachoochee River in Atlanta, the Atlanta police department said at a Thursday news conference. Officials told reporters they found no indication of foul play. The preliminary cause of death is drowning.
“We may never be able to tell you how he got into the river,” Major Michael O’Connor of Atlanta Police told reporters. O’Connor said the river wasn’t that far from Cunningham’s home. The scientist was wearing his favorite running shoes, O’Connor added.
Navy Commander Cunningham deployed as a CDC scientist and researcher responding to public health emergencies such as the Ebola and Zika viruses, vanished on Feb. 12.
The investigation is still under way, so the manner of death has not been determined, the medical examiner said.
Cunningham left work in the Atlanta office on Feb. 12, saying that he was sick after learning he was passed over for promotion. But police have found no evidence that Cunningham’s disappearance was directly tied to his lack of promotion.
O’Connor said last month he thought the disappearance was “extremely unusual,” because all Cunningham’s belongings were at his home.
“His keys, his cell phone, credit cards, debit cards, wallet, all his identification, passport — everything you can think of, we’ve been able to locate. None of those items are missing,” O’Connor said.
EARLIER: Dr Timothy Cunningham, A CDC Scientist & Navy Commander Vanishes – Dr Timothy J. Cunningham, ScD, a scientist, who works as Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disappeared without a trace after he left the office midway on February 12, saying he was feeling ill.
The military intelligence officer, Timothy J. Cunningham, 35, is a Doctor of science, a Harvard-educated epidemiologist and US Navy Commander,
His parents became concerned when he wouldn’t answer any texts or calls. They drove all the way from Maryland to Atlanta, Georgia, after some relatives went by and saw his house was empty and two windows were open. Inside the house, they found Cunningham’s phone, wallet and driver’s license. His car was still parked in the garage and his dog, Mr. Bojangles, aka Beau, was left on his own.
“Tim never leaves Beau unattended,” the missing man’s father, Terrell Cunningham reportedly said. “He just doesn’t do it.”
“None of this makes sense,” Timothy’s brother Anterio added. “He wouldn’t just evaporate like this and leave his dog alone and have our mother wondering and worrying like this. He wouldn’t.”
“I feel like I’m in a horrible Black Mirror episode,” his sister Tiara said.
With two degrees from Harvard, Cunningham worked on the government’s response to the Zika and Ebola crises. He had recently been promoted to the rank of commander by the Navy, and was one of The Atlanta Business Chronicle’s ‘40 Under 40 Award’ winners. But family members said in recent calls and texts that Cunningham seemed to not be himself.
Family, friends, and Timothy’s college alumni are all taking part in the search, and have raised more than $20,000 as a reward for any information, a sign of the high regard in which Cunningham was held. His family hopes that someone may recognize him somewhere, perhaps as a patient at a hospital.
According to the CDC:
“Timothy J. Cunningham, ScD, is a team lead with CDC’s Division of Population Health. Dr. Cunningham trained with CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer. His research has been oriented towards understanding health differences related to race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and geography. Dr. Cunningham has also deployed for numerous public health emergencies, including Superstorm Sandy, Ebola, and Zika. He is an active member of the American Public Health Association and the American College of Epidemiology. Dr. Cunningham received his S.M. and Sc.D. from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.”
You can get involved by sharing this story to help find Doctor Cunningham. There is a reward on offer.