Kidnapping Theory Ruled Out by Police, Despite No Other Leads


LATEST UPDATES (WEDS, FEB 28):

Missing CDC scientist had meeting about being passed over for promotion before disappearance, police say

(USA TODAY) A CDC scientist had a meeting with his supervisor about a missed promotion on the day that he went missing, police say.

Atlanta police released new details of Tim Cunningham’s disappearance on Tuesday.

According to Major Michael O’Connor, Cunningham found out that he wasn’t getting an expected promotion on Feb. 5.

Police attempt to tamp down kidnapping theory 

Cunningham called out sick for work on Thursday and Friday of that week, and then returned to the CDC office on Monday, Feb. 12.

That morning, he met with a supervisor who explained why he did not receive the promotion. Shortly after that, Cunningham said he felt sick and went home.

On the way home, Cunningham tried to call his mother in Maryland. She missed the call, and Cunningham did not leave a voicemail, O’Connor said
Cunningham hasn’t been heard from since.

O’Connor said that the case was extremely perplexing because they’ve been able to locate all of Cunningham’s belongings, including his wallet, cell phone, car keys and more.

Police said they’ve processed the home, searched the local area and checked Atlanta-area hospitals but have found nothing.

Since his disappearance, a number of conspiracy theories have emerged. But Cunningham had no access to classified material, and the CDC does not believe that his employment would be the cause of any foul play.

“He would not be the type of person, if you kidnapped him and held him, he could give you some horrific virus that could be a real problem for all the rest of us,” O’Connor said. Read the full story at USA TODAY.

No one can explain CDC doctor’s last words to next-door-neighbor … 

Before Timothy Cunningham disappeared more than two weeks ago after he left work early, he had some unusual final words 

(CBS NEWS) Timothy Cunningham’s next door neighbor, Viviana Tory, says Cunningham said something odd to her husband the day he went missing, reports CBS News’ Omar Villafranca.

Image from Dr. Timothy Cunningham’s Facebook page.

“He told my husband to tell his wife – me – to erase his cellphone number from my cellphone,” Tory said.

Investigators returned to the woods around Cunningham’s house Monday searching for more clues. His family found his wallet, his car, even his beloved dog all left behind in his Atlanta home. Cunningham’s father, Terrell, drove from Maryland to Georgia after not hearing from his son for two days.

The CDC released a statement saying, “Dr. Cunningham’s colleagues and friends at the CDC hope that he is safe. We want him to return to his loved ones and his work, protecting people’s health.” See the full story at CBS News. 

4 DEAD BODIES FOUND – NONE ARE HIS 

(HEADLINE HEALTH | Tuesday, Feb. 27) The parents of CDC Dr. Timothy Cunningham have told CNN that four bodies have been discovered in the search for their missing son, but the search goes on because none of the bodies are his – and that’s not even the strangest thing about this bizarre missing persons case:

(CNN) Four times, the parents of a missing doctor with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been told that a body has been found. Each time, Tia and Terrell Cunningham are sent into heart-wrenching agony, only to learn that it isn’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.”

Other bizarre elements of the case also have people  scratching their heads as the search becomes more urgent:

  • Why would police say that foul play is not suspected when there’s no evidence to suggest that Dr. Cunningham voluntarily went missing?
  • Has a cadaver dog been used in the search of Dr. Cunningham’s Atlanta home and property, the last place he’s known to have been?
  • Is there a link between his disappearance and his role as a federal investigator on such sensitive topics as Ebola, Zika, and “health differences related to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and geography,” per his job description on the CDC website?

Clearly there are many more questions than answers in this troubling case …

Search intensifies for US health intelligence officer; did he know too much?

UPDATE: MONDAY FEB 26, 10:07 PM EST

A gofundme page has raised $23,577 in reward money in an effort to locate Dr. Cunningham.

(Taylor Swaak, Newsweek) A rising official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention left work early on February 12 feeling sick—and no one has heard from him since.

A nationwide search is now underway for Timothy Cunningham, a researcher and health expert for the agency. Police reported him missing on February 14, and there is a $10,000 reward for anyone with information about his case. Foul play is not suspected, police said.

Here’s what we know so far about Cunningham and his disappearance:

About Cunningham:

  • Cunningham is a 35-year-old, Harvard University-educated epidemiologist—meaning he investigates patterns and causes of human disease and injury. He holds a master’s degree and a doctor of science degree from the university’s school of public health, and is also a Morehouse College alumnus.
  • He lives in Atlanta’s Bolton neighborhood. He’s about 6 feet tall and weighs about 230 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.
  • His online CDC bio lists him as a team lead with the agency’s Division of Population Health. He’s been working at the CDC’s Chamblee campus in Atlanta.
  • Cunningham has conducted extensive research on health differences related to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and geography. He’s been deployed for numerous public-health emergencies, such as Superstorm Sandy, Ebola and Zika.
  • The agency described him in a statement as “a highly respected member of our CDC family.”
  • Separately, Cunningham in July was also promoted to commander in the United States Public Health Service, family members told The New York Times.
  • Cunningham earned the Outstanding Atlanta award in 2014—along with nine others—in recognition of his “service, leadership and achievements of Atlanta young professionals.”
  • He was also named on Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 under 40 list in 2017, according to various reports. “Love what you do,” he told the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Do not quit. Keep going. During the bad, pick yourself up and learn from it.”
  • Cunningham’s friends and family describe him as “opinionated, positive and happy — and they noted his reliability,” NBC News reported. “He has this pristine service record and background, and then he’s also the guy you can call to help you move furniture or get together with you at a restaurant at the end of a long day,” David Calloway, a college friend, told NBC News.

Cunningham’s disappearance:

  • Cunningham’s sister, Tiara, told The Times her brother sounded different—”not like himself”—in a morning phone call the day he left work early. His father also recalled “some exchanges via phone as well as text that alerted me to be concerned about our son,” NBC News reported.
  • Tiara last spoke to Cunningham at about 7 a.m. that day. They were close and spoke to each other on a near daily basis, according to reports. They’d ended that morning’s conversation with, “Love you. I’ll talk to you later,” she told The Times.
  • After Cunningham didn’t respond to texts or calls, his parents asked extended family members check on his home. Those members reported that it seemed empty—the house and the garage were locked, and there were two open windows.
  • Cunningham’s parents, concerned, drove overnight from their Maryland home to Atlanta and arrived on February 14. They entered using a spare key and found his phone, wallet and driver’s license, various forms of identification—including driver’s license and passport—as well as his SUV in the garage. His dog, Mr. Bojangles, was there unattended, which his family said would never happen.
  • “My first mind is that something has happened especially considering the length of time he’s been gone. Not having his phone, leaving his dog Bo alone, he just wouldn’t voluntarily check out like that,” his brother, Anterio Cunningham, told Fox5.
  • “I feel like I’m in a horrible Black Mirror episode,” Tiara told The Times, alluding to a TV series that’s drawn comparisons to the Twilight Zone.
    Police officially reported Cunningham missing on February 14, according to a social media post from the city’s police department.
  • Joe Carlos, a close college friend of Cunningham’s, told NBC News the two had planned only days before to attend a gala together to celebrate the founding of Morehouse. “Our last communication the week prior was about hanging out before and going down to the VIP reception and enjoying ourselves,” he said.
  • Cunningham’s family partnered with Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta to offer a $10,000 reward for any information in Cunningham’s case. Friends and family members have raised more than $20,000 so far.
  • Police are searching for Cunningham with help from friends, family and the Morehouse alumni network, which has utilized social media to spread the word nationwide. The search effort includes small and large groups that canvas and distribute flyers in the local area.
  • Family and friends have searched areas such as parks, hospitals and medical facilities.
  • Anyone with information is urged to call 911 or the Atlanta Police Homicide/Adult Missing Persons Unit at 404-546-4235. Displayed with permission from Newsweek via Repubhub. 

Dr. Timothy Cunningham is seen in this 2014 photo of US health care workers who were deployed to Africa to treat Ebola. Screencapture: New York Times.

UPDATE: SUNDAY, FEB 25  (NEW YORK TIMES) Authorities in Atlanta announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case of a missing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee who disappeared about two weeks ago. 

The employee, Timothy J. Cunningham, 35, was promoted to commander in the United States Public Health Service in July, his family said. According to the police, he was last seen on Feb. 12.

[Curiously, the reward was not offered for information leading to finding the doctor alive. The Public Health Service is a quasi-military federal agency whose  workers are referred to as a Commissioned Corps. Its officers wear uniforms similar to those of the U.S. Navy, and the Corps uses the same commissioned officer ranks as the Navy  from ensign to admiral. – Editor]

“I feel like I’m in a horrible ‘Black Mirror’ episode,” Commander Cunningham’s sister, Tiara Cunningham, said in a phone interview on Saturday. “I’m kind of lost without him, to be quite honest.”

Ms. Cunningham, 27, was the last family member to speak with Commander Cunningham before he went missing, she said.

Although they live in different states — Ms. Cunningham in Fayetteville, N.C., and her brother in Atlanta — they are best friends and it is not unusual for them to talk multiple times a day, she said.

But their brief phone conversation on Feb. 12 was a little different from most. “He sounded not like himself,” she said, without elaborating.

They ended the conversation the way they always do: “Love you. I’ll talk to you later.”

When she texted him later, she didn’t get a response. Neither did her mother, who tried to contact him that afternoon.

“That was really weird,” Ms. Cunningham said, adding that she was “devastated” by her brother’s absence.

Their father, Terrell Cunningham, 60, said his son’s supervisor told him that Commander Cunningham had reported for work but that he had left midday because he wasn’t feeling well.

When the family had difficulty contacting him, they asked a relative to check his home. The house and the garage were locked, and two windows were open.

Commander Cunningham’s father and his mother, Tia-Juana Cunningham, 60, drove all night from their home in Waldorf, Md. … Original source; our coverage continues below. 

(HEADLINE HEALTH) It doesn’t add up. A highly regarded CDC doctor and expert in deadly diseases has been missing since before Valentine’s Day.

Dr. Timothy Cunningham’s wallet, phone, keys, and perhaps most notably his dog were all found in his home.

But no one can explain why two windows in his Atlanta home were found open in the middle of February.

Was he sleep walking? Was he kidnapped?

Police and family members have searched the doctor’s home and scoured the neighborhood, all to no avail.

What could explain the disappearance of this federal worker who holds the highest academic degree awarded in science, a ScD?

Dr. Cunningham reportedly went home sick from work on February 12. Given that his personal effects were found in his home, it’s apparent that he got there.

But what happened next is anyone’s guess.

The CDC lists the Harvard-educated Dr. Cunningham as an “Epidemic Intelligence Service officer.”

Is there a link between his expertise in Ebola and the Zika virus and his disappearance? 

Did someone decide that this doctor knew too much?

The mysterious disappearance of a federal intelligence officer is far from a typical local missing persons case … his disappearance has national significance. Detailed coverage below from NBC News …

CDC Employee Timothy Cunningham Went Missing More Than A Week Ago

(PHIL MCCAUSLAND, NBC NEWS) A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee was last seen 11 days ago, when he left work early after complaining that he felt unwell, Atlanta police said Friday.

Timothy Cunningham, 35, works as a commander in the U.S. Public Health Service and has responded to the Ebola virus and the Zika virus outbreaks, the CDC said. He holds two degrees from Harvard.

Police are now conducting a search for Cunningham and have enlisted the help of his family, friends and the alumni network of his alma mater Morehouse College.

The search effort includes small and large groups organizing to canvas and flyer the local area, said close friend David Calloway. He spoke on behalf of the family and is helping lead the search. Social media, digital messaging services and Morehouse’s alumni network have expanded that effort nationwide.

Cunningham’s family told NBC News that they stayed in near constant contact with each other, and said that he and his sister spoke nearly every day. Cunningham’s sister last spoke to him around 7 a.m. on Feb. 12, Cunningham’s parents said.

“Tim had been in communication with us extensively on Sunday [Feb. 11], and I pinpoint Sunday because there were some exchanges via phone as well as text that alerted me to be concerned about our son,” his father Terrell Cunningham said.

Cunningham’s parents said they became increasingly worried when he did not return any texts or phone calls. They then had extended family members check on his house in Atlanta, which seemed empty despite two open windows — an alarming detail, as Cunningham’s parents said their son was particularly environmentally conscious. Read the full story at NBC NEWS

Authorities ask anyone who might have information to call 911 or the Atlanta Police Homicide/Adult Missing Persons Unit at (404)546-4235.

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