Missing CDC worker's body recovered in Atlanta river

Statement To The Media From Acting CDC Director RADM Anne Schuchat, MD | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC

Statement To The Media From Acting CDC Director RADM Anne Schuchat, MD | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC

Officials confirm a body found late Tuesday evening in the Chattahoochee River is that of a CDC scientist who went missing over a month ago.

The investigation is still under way, so the manner of death has not been determined, the medical examiner said.

Fishermen found the severely decomposed body on Tuesday night about 400 yards upstream from where the Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway crosses the river, according to NBC News affiliate WXIA.

Maj. O'Connor said he was wearing his favorite jogging shoes at the time he was found and three crystals were in his pocket. Michael O'Connor of the Atlanta Police told reporters. He says the body was found in an area that authorities had already searched in February without finding anything.

The New York Times reports his family said their last phone conversations with Cunningham had left them anxious and "he sounded not like himself".

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"This is an extremely unusual set of circumstances", O'Connor said at a February 27 news conference.

Cunningham was an epidemiologist in the CDC's chronic disease unit. A report that the 35-year-old was recently unhappy about being passed over for a promotion was later retracted by the CDC. 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. Atlanta police responded by doubling down on their version of events, citing the CDC as the source of the information.

In the days after he went missing, Cunningham's case drew intense media scrutiny and speculation about what had happened in what police called "unusual" circumstances. The CDC did not identify any problems with his job performance or workplace issues beyond the promotion denial, O'Connor said.

Friends also found the disappearance troublingly out of character. "As a parent, you have indicators when things are just not right with your child, and that was the case".

Friends said Cunningham was smart and caring, with a big grin and big hugs to match. Timothy's family stated that he had a conversation with them the day before he vanished, that had left them concerned. Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. issued a statement on March 12 addressing the Morehouse and Harvard graduate saying that if "Tim reads this message", they hope that he comes home soon. He worked on public health emergencies including Superstorm Sandy, the Ebola outbreak and the Zika virus.

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