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Body of missing CDC researcher recovered from Atlanta river; cause of death still unknown

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The body of Timothy Cunningham, a Centers for Disease Control researcher who went missing in February, was recovered from the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta late Tuesday. Police are waiting for the medical examiner's report to determine the cause of death. (Image source: CDC video screenshot)

Police confirmed that the body recovered from the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta late Tuesday belongs to the Centers for Disease Control researcher who went missing in February.

Atlanta Fire Rescue found Timothy Cunningham's body in an area of the river that was inaccessible by foot, police said Thursday during a news conference.

It's still unclear how the 35-year-old scientist died.

Police said there were no signs of trauma to his body and they are waiting for the medical examiner's report to determine the cause of death.

What happened?

On Feb. 12, Cunningham, a well-respected epidemiologist, left work after complaining to co-workers that he wasn't feeling well.

It would be the last time he was seen alive.

Police found Cunningham's belongings, including his keys, credit and debit cards, cellphone and his beloved dog, Mr. Bojangles, in his northwest Atlanta home.

Initially, the CDC said Cunningham had been upset about being passed over for a promotion, according to police. But later, the CDC retracted that information and said he had just received a promotion, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

His disappearance baffled Atlanta police who led the search and offered a $10,000 reward for information.

The unmarried researcher had texted his mother at 5:21 a.m. that morning, "Are you awake?" he asked.

“I wish I had that opportunity to answer that text,” Cunningham's mother later told WTKR-TV.

He also tried to call her at 9:12 a.m. She didn't answer, and Cunningham didn't leave a message, according to police.

Cunningham's parents said they had received troubling text messages and a phone call from their son on the night before he mysteriously vanished.

“We’ve shared that with the detectives, and we’ve kept that as a private matter,” his father said. “As a parent, you have indicators when things are just not right with your child, and that was the case.”

But it appears the police are no closer to understanding what led to the researcher's disappearance and death. Police said they are waiting for the medical examiner's report.

What else?

Atlanta Business Chronicle named Cunningham on its 40 under 40 list of young standouts.

He spent 16 years in public health and worked on high-profile public health emergencies including Ebola and Zika viruses.

Cunningham also co-authored 28 publications on a range of topics.

He earned his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University.

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