On February 12, CDC scientist Timothy Cunningham, 35, vanished after leaving work early because he was reportedly ill. On April 3, Cunningham’s body was found partially submerged in the Chattahoochee River, which is not far from his home. Fulton County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Gorniak ruled the death to be a suicide by drowning. However, according to CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL-TV, “it remains unclear how exactly he first entered the water.”
Now there are more details coming out about his personal life, one being that he was struggling with sexual orientation and a chronic illness.
AJC.com reports, according to case files, ta best friend of Cunningham told said he was struggling with his sexual identity and, in 2010, had a breakdown, “Tim talked to her about his feelings toward men and that he didn’t consider himself gay,’ the case file states. Though he didn’t identify himself as gay, Cunningham told Reed about reconnecting with a former Morehouse classmate.” The AJC.com revealed the former Morehouse classmate was coming to Tim’s house and Tim “began to question whether the person was playing with his feelings.”
AJC.com continued, “In an interview with investigators, the classmate said Cunningham had come on to him in recent months. About two weeks before Cunningham’s disappearance, the man blocked his number on his cell phone. ”
Police wrote in the investigative file, “He said he didn’t want to be confrontational because they moved in the same social circles but it was obvious to him that Mr. Cunningham was making light advances.”
The investigative file also reported on February 9 “Cunningham was alone at El Bar in Atlanta when he saw his former classmate on a date with a woman. The two men shook hands. The following morning, Cunningham asked the man to go out for breakfast, but he declined.”
Cunningham’s sister “told police she knew her brother had re-connected with a classmate, but she told police he was interested in two women at work. After a break, Cunningham was trying to begin dating again, his sister said.” In addition, Cunningham’s parents told investigators that he had a “chronic disease and took medication to treat it” but no information on what the disease was.
If Cunningham was struggling with his identity as much as the case files states this could explain why he allegedly committed suicide. Studies have shown LGBTQ adults have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders and are at a higher risk for suicidal behavior than heterosexual adults.
Timothy Cunningham was a Morehouse graduate and an esteemed scientist who was a 2017 40 Under 40 honoree by Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Our condolences goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy. Rest in peace, Timothy Cunningham.