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". The area, though near Cunningham's home, was not accessible by walking, as the police struggled to find a safe place to launch a boat in order to retrieve the remains.
Fulton County chief medical examiner Jan Gorniak said they are waiting for a toxicology test, which would say whether any drugs were in his system, before making a final ruling on his death.
"We may never be able to tell you how he got into the river", Major Michael O'Connor of the Atlanta Police told reporters during a press conference. "In fact, he received an early promotion/exceptional proficiency promotion to Commander effective July 1, 2017, in recognition of his exemplary performance in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS)", the CDC said in a March statement. Eventually, his parents, Terrell and Tia-Juana Cunningham, made the drive from Maryland down to Georgia, where they found Cunningham's phone, keys, wallet, auto and dog.
With the appearance of Cunningham's body, many questions still remain unanswered. It gained so much attention that he CDC had to release a statement condemning the reports as false. O'Connor said in late February the disappearance was an "extremely unusual set of circumstances". But her phone was on silent mode. He also called her at 9:12 a.m., and she also didn't answer.
The state Department of Public Health requested help from the CDC after at least 52 new HIV cases were reported among drug users in northeastern MA in 2017, compared to 23 the previous year. He worked on public health emergencies including Superstorm Sandy, the Ebola outbreak and the Zika virus.
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Fliers circulated across Atlanta in the weeks after he disappeared.
"We've shared that with the detectives, and we've kept that as a private matter", his father said. "I can't tell you that he was jogging, but those two things together seem to indicate that that's a possibility".
When they arrived at his house a few days later, Cunningham's parents said, they knew something was wrong because his Tibetan spaniel was unattended.
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. Each time, they felt heart-wrenching agony, they said, only to learn it wasn't their son.