(ATLANTA) — Months before Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee Timothy Cunningham disappeared, he had been named one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 for 2017 — a group of young leaders who succeed in their professions and lead their communities, according to the newspaper.
“I am using the skills I have to improve and help the lives of others,” Cunningham told the Atlanta Business Chronicle in November.
But now, the Harvard graduate has vanished without a trace.
Cunningham, 35, a commander in the Public Health Service who has been sent to respond to public health emergencies including the Ebola virus and the Zika virus, hasn’t been seen since Feb. 12.
He disappeared hours after he learned why he didn’t get a promotion, according to police, and all of his belongings are at his home.
Leonte Benton, 33, a friend who met Cunningham they met through a young professionals group in Atlanta several years ago, told ABC News he is very worried.
“This is an extremely unusual set of circumstances,” Maj. Michael O’Connor of the Atlanta Police told reporters Tuesday.
On Feb. 5, Cunningham was told he didn’t get a promotion he was up for, O’Connor said. He came into work on Feb. 6 and 7, but then on Feb. 8 and 9 he called in sick, O’Connor said.
The next workday — Monday, Feb. 12 — was the last day Cunningham reported to work and the last day he has been seen, O’Connor said. At work, Cunningham met with his supervisor, and during that meeting, he was given the explanation for why he did not receive the promotion, O’Connor said.
After that meeting, Cunningham asked to go home sick, O’Connor said.
Shortly after 9 a.m., while driving home, Cunningham called his mother but she did not pick up and he did not leave a message, police said.
He was never heard from since. His concerned relatives drove down from Maryland, finding all of his belongings, including his dog, at his home, according to police and ABC affiliate WSB.
“The most unusual factor in this case is that every single belonging that we are aware of was located in the residence,” O’Connor said. “His keys, his cell phone, credit cards, debit cards, wallet, all his identification, passport — everything you can think of, we’ve been able to locate.”
“The circumstances of this one — just beyond the fact that he is a CDC employee — but just as a general person are unusual in that everything that you would need to sustain yourself is at his home,” he said. “So there is no real explanation for that.”
O’Connor said there is no reason to believe his employment at the CDC has anything to do with his disappearance.
The CDC in a statement called Cunningham “a highly respected member of our CDC family.”
“Dr. Cunningham’s colleagues and friends at CDC hope that he is safe,” the CDC said. “We want him to return to his loved ones and his work — doing what he does best as a CDC disease detective — protecting people’s health.”
There is also no evidence of foul play, police said.
Cunningham allegedly told a neighbor to have the neighbor’s wife erase Cunningham’s phone number from her contact list, O’Connor said, adding that he does not have all of the specifics on that exchange.
“We’re looking at everything,” O’Connor said.
Cunningham’s family and Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment, police said.
Anyone with information is urged to call 911 or the Atlanta Police Homicide/Adult Missing Persons Unit at 404-546-4235.
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