The body of missing CDC researcher Dr. Timothy Cunningham was discovered drowned in a river Tuesday, more than six weeks after relatives reported him missing, Atlanta police said Thursday afternoon. Here’s what we know about the discovery so far:
Doctor’s Body Found Decomposing in River
Timothy Cunningham’s body was found Tuesday, April 3, partially submerged in water and a great deal of mud on the west bank of the Chattahoochee River in northwest Atlanta, fire -rescue department spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford said at a press conference. Fishermen spotted the doctor’s body and alerted authorities. He was found floating face up along the riverbank.
Cunningham’s Preliminary Cause of Death Is Drowning
Fulton County Chief Medical Examiner Jan Gorniak determined Cunningham’s preliminary cause of death as drowning. “Since the investigation is ongoing, we don’t have … whether it was an accident, a suicide, or anything other than that” Cunningham drowned, Gorniak told reporters. She said the way Cunningham’s body had decomposed was consistent with him being missing since Feb. 12.
No Foul Play Suspected In Cunningham’s Death
While authorities are still investigating the doctor’s death, they said so far, no evidence of foul play has been found. The medical examiner found no ante- or postmortem wounds on Cunningham’s body after he was recovered from the river. Officials are still waiting on the toxicology report.
Authorities Had Previously Searched the Area Where Cunningham was Found
Fisherman first discovered Cunningham’s body and called authorities, said Stafford. He noted the body was found in an area that authorities had already searched in February without finding anything.
Authorities Had Trouble Retrieving Cunningham’s Body
According to Stafford, it appeared Cunningham’s body had been stuck in the mud along the riverbank for “a little while.” He said fire-rescue officials were unable to access the bank to retrieve the body, forcing them to go upstream and carefully move Cunningham’s body further downstream. “We used one of our tower trucks and rope system to then bring the body up to the bridge so we could recover it,” he said.
Cunningham, 35, was an epidemiologist at the Atlanta-based federal agency. He disappeared Feb. 12. His family reported him missing on Feb. 16 after going to his home and finding his belongings and vehicle there.
Police previously had said they had no evidence of foul play, but could not rule it out. The civilian group Crime Stoppers offered a reward of up to $15,000 for information pointing to any criminal activity.
CDC officials said previously that reports Cunningham had been passed over for a promotion were incorrect. In a statement, the CDC said Cunningham received an “exceptional proficiency promotion” July 1 to the position of commander, an early promotion reflecting his excellence as an employee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.