ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned that the body found near the Chattahoochee River late Tuesday night is Timothy Cunningham.
Cunningham -- who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- left work on Feb. 12, saying he wasn’t feeling well. The 35-year-old hadn’t been seen since.
The medical examiner said the preliminary cause of death for Cunningham is drowning but she said officials are still determining the exact cause of death.
"There was no signs of any foul play," said Fulton County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Gorniak.
Gorniak said Cunningham was positively ID'd through dental records.
Cunningham's family released a statement Thursday evening, saying:
"We appreciate all the time, attention and professionalism you have contributed as we searched for our beloved son and brother Tim.
"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."
Cunningham, a Morehouse College and Harvard University graduate, was an epidemiologist, working for the chronic disease department of the CDC.
The day before he vanished, Cunningham had a conversation with his family that was quite concerning.
“We were aware of some concerns at work that he had shared with us and there were some personal issues too,” Atlanta Police Maj. Michael O'Connor said.
Investigators said they made sure his government credit cards weren't being used, looked at his browser history on his work computer and checked his access card for the CDC, which shows the last time he checked in.
Authorities said Thursday, some men fishing in the Chattahoochee saw the body along the shoreline in an area that was not easily accessible from land.
"It was found face-up. It was stuck in a lot of mud as well and it looks like it had been there in that position for a little while," Sgt. Cortez Stafford with the Atlanta Fire Department said.
O'Connor admitted during a news conference Thursday afternoon, how Cunningham ended up in the river may never be known.
"We recovered three crystals from one of his pockets and he was an avid collector of these crystals or rocks or rare stones," O'Connor said.
The CDC released a statement Thursday, saying:
"CDR Timothy Cunningham’s colleagues and friends at CDC are deeply saddened to learn of his death. Tim was a treasured member of the CDC family and his work as an epidemiologist was invaluable to CDC’s efforts to protect the health, safety, and security of Americans.
"Tim was a team lead in the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch of CDC’s Division of Population Health. He also completed CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer program. His research has been oriented towards understanding health differences related to race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and geography. CDR Cunningham also deployed for numerous public health emergency responses, including Superstorm Sandy, Ebola, and Zika. He served in multiple leadership roles with the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association.
"Tim’s impact will be felt not only through his significant contributions to CDC’s mission, but also through his influence on the lives of his colleagues and friends. We extend our condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time."
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