Body of missing CDC scientist found in Chattahoochee River, officials say

CDC denies missing worker was passed over for promotion

A body found in the Chattahoochee River has been identified as missing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) employee Timothy Cunningham, authorities announced Thursday.

The Atlanta Police Department, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office and the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department will release further details during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

While authorities are still investigating the doctor's death, they said so far, no evidence of foul play has been found.

The preliminary cause of death appears to be drowning.

"We may never be able to tell you how he got into the river", Major Michael O'Connor of Atlanta Police told reporters.

O'Connor said three crystals in his pocket for unknown reasons, although Cunningham was an avid rock collector. The scientist was wearing his favorite running shoes, O'Connor added.

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He was last seen leaving work February 12 after telling colleagues he didn't feel well. A report that the 35-year-old was recently unhappy about being passed over for a promotion was later retracted by the CDC.

Cunningham's disappearance prompted a high-profile police search and a $10,000 reward for clues. He had also called in sick February 8 and 9, the two previous workdays, O'Connor said. In his home, they found his keys, phone, wallet containing his credit and debit cards and identification, and they even found his passport. The medical examiner found no ante- or postmortem wounds on Cunningham's body after he was recovered from the river.

The manner of death has not been determined at this time, the medical examiner said.

The CDC's director in mid-March issued a statement denying that Cunningham hadn't gotten a promotion and noting that he'd been promoted in July.

Cunningham reportedly called his sister the morning he was last seen. He co-authored more than two dozen publications that centered on how health issues impact minorities, worked on notable public health crises such as the Zika and Ebola outbreaks, PEOPLE reports.

Cunningham's work at the CDC fueled speculation and conspiracy theories about his disappearance, including one dubious story on a website that said Cunningham disappeared amid warnings that his patients were dying from botched flu vaccines. "I can't tell you that he was jogging but those things together seem to indicate that that is a possibility". So was his beloved Tibetan spaniel, which concerned his family.

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