Atlanta police have identified a body pulled from the Chattahoochee River as that of missing CDC employee Timothy Cunningham.
CNN reports that officials say there are no signs of foul play. Though Fulton County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Gorniak told reporters that the preliminary cause of death is drowning, the manner of death has not been determined. Authorities were able to make a positive ID of the body using dental records.
A frantic search for Cunningham began in February when he went missing after calling in sick. The disappearance of the Morehouse and Harvard graduate stumped authorities, as well as family and friends, after Cunningham’s parents found his keys, car, dog, and phone at his home.
His family said in a statement issued 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.”
Maj. Michael O’Connor of the Atlanta Police Department told reporters that Cunningham’s home is not far from the river where his body was found. Cunningham, a jogger and avid crystal collector, was found wearing his favorite jogging shoes and had three crystals in his pocket.
A spokesman for the Atlanta Fire Department, Sgt. Cortez Stafford, added that officials had searched the area where the body was found, but says there’s no way to tell if the body had been there or if it was moved “due to the rise and fall of the river.”
“It was very difficult terrain, very difficult to access the location of where Mr. Cunningham was found,” Stafford said. “It was in a remote area that’s not easily accessible by walking trails, by vehicle or by people just being around there.”
Cunningham’s parents, Tia and Terrell Cunningham, did share that they had received worrisome texts and a phone call from their son the night before he went missing. Cunningham’s father said, “We’ve shared that with the detectives, and we’ve kept that as a private matter. As a parent, you have indicators when things are just not right with your child, and that was the case.”
The Cunninghams received four calls from officials after their son went missing, alerting them that a body had been found. They said each time was difficult and heart-wrenching, only to learn later that it wasn’t their son. “It takes you to a place that the light is not shining in,” Terrell Cunningham said. “I won’t call it a dark place, but they are lows. This is extremely hard.”
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