Timothy Cunningham Cause of Death: How Did the Missing CDC Employee Die?

Timothy Cunningham Cause of Death

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Timothy Cunningham, the CDC employee who has been missing since February 12, was found dead late Tuesday, April 3, Atlanta police announced today. Although officials are still conducting tests and investigating what happened to Cunningham, initial reports from a medical examiner’s autopsy revealed that Cunningham’s cause of death was drowning. Timothy Cunningham’s body was found along the Chattahoochee River, in an area that was inaccessible through walking, said Fire Rescue Sergeant Alex Hofstadter, who was part of the rescue team.


Preliminary Reports Indicate He Died from Drowning And There Was No Foul Play

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Dr. Jan Gorniak, the chief medical examiner, said there were no signs of foul play.  But exactly what happened to Cunningham is still not known. “Since the investigation is still open, we do not have a manner of death, whether it’s an accident, a suicide or anything other than that,” Gorniak said.  Preliminary reports indicate the cause of death was drowning, but further tests will be conducted. There was also no evidence of natural disease seen in the autopsy. A toxicology screen will still be performed.

Major Michal O’Connor also stated that at this point, foul play did not seem to be involved. “We do have some other issues that we need to take up. But at this point we have no indication of foul play involving Dr. Cunningham, we are waiting on a ME’s report to be finalized. As it stands right now, there’s been no foul play indicated to this point.”

He added that they had interviewed friends, family, employees, and tracked his last movements, and could find nothing indicating foul play.


The Medical Examiner Said He Died on February 12, the Day He Went Missing

Fishermen found Cunningham’s body on Tuesday, April 3 in a muddy area along the Chattahoochee River. The state of his body was consistent with dying on February 12, the medical examiner said. But a final cause, manner, and time of death was being determined.

“The condition of the body … is consistent with him being gone since February 12,” Gorniak said. “We can’t pinpoint it any closer than that, but the changes that we did see have been consistent since then.”

The area had been checked on February 23 by the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. Sergeant Cortez Stafford, a spokesman for the fire department, said: “During that search we did not find any indication or signs of a body being in the river at that time. We did a very thorough search of the riverbanks, both sides of the riverbanks, up stream and down stream, and did not encounter any indication that we discovered a body there.”


Cunningham Was Found Near Where He Lived, And He Was Wearing His Favorite Jogging Shoes

Timothy Cunningham

Atlanta Police Major Michael O’Connor said that the river where Cunningham was found is not far from his home. Cunningham was wearing his favorite jogging shoes when he was found. “I can’t tell you that he was jogging, but those things together seem to indicate that’s a possibility,” O’Connor said. “Barring new information coming forward, we may never be able to tell you how he got into the river. We’re not sure where he got into the river at, at this point. We just don’t have those answers at this time.”

Cunningham’s wallet and keys were still at his home, and O’Connor acknowledged that it would be “extremely unusual” for him to go jogging without his personal belongings. But he also said that he didn’t know Cunningham’s personal habits, or whether he would leave his wallet at home if he didn’t intend to purchase anything. Some reports indicate that a neighbor thought they saw Cunningham jogging in the neighborhood on February 12, but it’s not known if this report was verified.

Cunningham was found in an area with very difficult terrain, remote and hard to access by walking. But it’s not known if that’s where he got into the river. Stafford said, “It was very difficult terrain, very difficult to access that location where Mr. Cunningham was found. It was in a remote area that’s not easily accessible by walking trails. It was a very technical operation, identifying where the location of the body was and also maintaining scene integrity so that the Atlanta Police Department could do their job and make sure that the scene was preserved to preserve the investigation.”


Cunningham, an Avid Collector of Rare Stones, Had Three Crystals in His Pocket

O’Connor did say that Cunningham was found with three crystals in his pocket. “He was an avid collector of these kinds of crystals or rocks, or rare stone, and three of them were located in a pocket in his clothing at the time that he was recovered,” he said.

Until more reports are released about Cunningham’s disappearance, what happened to him still remains a mystery. He left the CDC on Monday, February 12, saying that he felt sick. The police said he had spoken to a supervisor about not getting a promotion that he had wanted. However, on March 12 the CDC announced that he had not been passed up for a promotion. Atlanta Police Sergeant John Chafee said that the department still stood behind everything that was said about Cunningham’s employment, CBS News reported. “Our information came directly from the CDC,” he said.

His family and friends have been confused by his disappearance since the news was first announced. They said he had many wonderful things going on in his life, a caring family, a beautiful home, and a dog he adored. He would drive hundreds of miles just to get his dog’s teeth cleaned. His dog, Mr. Bojangles Cunningham (Bo for short) was at his home when he went missing. His parents, Tia and Terrell Cunningham, did say that they had received a series of worrying text messages and a phone call from him the night of February 11, the day before he went missing. They said they shared the details with detectives, but would not share the contents of the messages with the public, preferring to keep the messages private.

Police looked at his browser history on his desktop computer and found nothing suspicious, WSB-TV reported. Cunningham’s family released a statement on Thursday: “We sincerely thank all of you for the support and kindness you have shown our family during this difficult time. We are processing this incomprehensible loss and request time and space to grieve.”

You can read more about Cunningham’s disappearance and his background in Heavy’s story below:


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