- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta.
- Thomson Reuters
- CDC commander Timothy Cunningham left work on February 12 feeling ill, and was never heard from again.
- He remained missing for more than six weeks before his body was recovered in an Atlanta river in April. He was still wearing his favorite pair of running shoes.
- The Fulton County Medical Examiner ruled his cause of death suicide by drowning on Tuesday.
The mysterious disappearance of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Commander Timothy Cunningham ended tragically last month when a group of fishermen found his body in a muddy spot on the Chattahoochee River in northwest Atlanta, and alerted the police.
“We may never be able to tell you how he got into the river,” Maj. Michael O’Connor of the Atlanta Police Department said when the commander’s body was recovered in April.
The only thing police said they found in Cunningham’s pockets at the time were three crystals. He was also wearing his favorite running shoes. But there weren’t any running trails nearby, deepening the mystery of how he got in the water in the first place.
On Tuesday, the public health worker’s case was finally solved when the Fulton County Medical Examiner issued its final report. Cunningham’s death was ruled a drowning by suicide, the medical examiner’s office told Business Insider.
- Timothy Cunningham.
- Atlanta Police Department
A Rising Star In Public Health
The 35-year-old commander had been a budding star at the nation’s leading public health agency, rising quickly through the ranks at the CDC and working on numerous public-health emergencies, including Superstorm Sandy, the Ebola outbreak, and the Zika outbreak. He was granted an early promotion to Commander last July.
But Atlanta Police Major O’Connor said at a news conference in February that Cunningham had recently been turned down for a promotion at work, and left the office feeling ill shortly after his supervisor explained why he’d been passed over.
The commander drove off that day and was never seen alive again, even as his car, credit and debit cards, keys, and cellphone were all recovered at his home, police said. He left his dog, Mr. Bojangles, home alone too.
“Tim never leaves Beau unattended,” Cunningham’s father, Terrell Cunningham, told NBC at the time of his son’s disappearance. “He just doesn’t do it.”
Cunningham had an impressive career in public health, and the Atlanta Business Chronicle named him one of 2017’s “40 under 40” in October. He held a master’s degree and a doctorate from Harvard’s School of Public Health.