Conspiracy, lies, and strange clues surround the missing CDC worker, but everything leads to more questions.


Usually, I would start with the facts of the case, and then throw down a timeline of the last known moments of the missing person. Unfortunately, that is impossible in this case. Very few facts are available, and those are clouded in conspiracy theories, outright lies, and fake news. While everyone is jumping down the rabbit hole of conspiracy, I will try to relate the facts as I have found them. I will leave the conspiracy theories to you. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a good conspiracy. They are intriguing, and make good television, but at the heart of this we need to remember that there is a real man missing.

Timothy J. Cunningham (35) was a Harvard educated epidemiologist who worked as a commander f or U.S. Public Health and Service division at the CDC (Center of Disease Control). His job was in the Chronic Disease Unit. He had recently been passed over for a promotion and was given the reasons behind this decision on February 12, 2018. Sources state that Cunningham called in sick the two days prior to his disappearance, but on the 12th he tried to come in. He only stayed a short while before leaving due to illness. During this time, he had a conference with his superior and received the reasoning behind his missed promotion.

Here is the timeline as we have it:
7 am – Cunningham called his sister. She remembers that he sounded odd but couldn’t give a reason behind her instinct.
9:12 am – Cunningham tries to call his mother, but the call goes to voicemail. He doesn’t leave a message.

These calls were standard for Cunningham. He lived alone but kept in contact with his family daily. After not hearing from their son for two days, the concerned parents drove the 900-mile trip from Maryland to Georgia to their son’s home. His door was locked, but inside were all of Timothy’s belongings including his phone, wallet, and his keys. Tim was nowhere to be found. The police combed through the wooded areas near his home but found nothing. All of his personal possessions and his vehicle were at home. Nothing was missing.

After searching phone records, they confirmed that Tim hadn’t used a taxi service or Uber. Where did he go? Why were his keys in the house if the door was locked? What the family found even more disturbing was the fact that he had left his beloved Mr. Bojangles. Tim loved his dog and would go out of his way to see that he was taken care of if Tim was going out of town. But now the dog had been left unattended for two days.

The house held no signs of a struggle, but two upstairs windows were left open. Terrell Cunningham found this odd but couldn’t give a reason why his son would refrain from opening the window. This wasn’t the final odd clue to turn up in this case.

Viviana Tori was Timothy’s next-door neighbor and she quickly came forward and gave a startling interview with CBS.

The day before the disappearance, she claimed her husband told her that Tim had told him to have his wife erase his phone number from her phone.

Wow that’s hard to even type in a grammatical way. So basically, she said that he said to her husband who said. Yeah, you get my point.

I watched her interview clip online and found it rather odd. It felt more like she wanted attention, than anything else, but that is merely my opinion. I would love to have a psychologist review her video. To me it seems her facial expressions, her body language, and the overall manner of her interview seem strange to me. I won’t claim that she is lying, but I will say it is unusual.

So, if Cunningham had asked his neighbor to delete his phone number, what does it mean? People online jump to the conspiracy theory which I will get into shortly. Some have indicated that they believe this meant he knew that he was leaving. I find my instincts lead me in another direction entirely. Could Timothy Cunningham have had row with his neighbors? Was Mrs. Tori harassing him? Could there have been a fight that escalated to the point of his disappearance? Who knows?

Atlanta Police Major, Michael O’Conner said, “There’s no evidence suggesting anything.”


That is the problem. There are too many holes in this case. We don’t have a clear timeline of his movements. We don’t have any details into his relationship with his neighbors. All we have are a few scattered clues and one giant conspiracy theory.

As promised, here is the conspiracy:
I’ll be honest the conspiracy was the reason I first became interested in this case, however after researching it further, the conspiracy falls apart. ran this headline on February 22, 2018

CDC Doctor, Who Claimed Flu Shot Caused Outbreak, Missing, Feared Dead

Afterwards they use this quote and claimed that it came from Timothy Cunningham back in January.

“Some of the patients I’ve administered the flu shot to this year have died. I don’t care who you are, this scares the crap out of me.”

Ok, now this sensational headline coupled with this quote would sound like every American should be worried, but after researching it there is no way this quote came from Timothy Cunningham. Below I have copied his bio straight from the CDC website.

Timothy J. Cunningham, ScD
Team Lead, Division of Population Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Timothy J. Cunningham, ScD, is a team lead with CDC’s Division of Population Health. Dr. Cunningham trained with CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer. His research has been oriented towards understanding health differences related to race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and geography. Dr. Cunningham has also deployed for numerous public health emergencies, including Superstorm Sandy, Ebola, and Zika. He is an active member of the American Public Health Association and the American College of Epidemiology. Dr. Cunningham received his S.M. and Sc.D. from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


Cunningham was a scientist, his doctorate degree was not a medical doctorate. He hadn’t administered flu shots to anyone. He was research scientist making a six-figure income with the CDC. This quote was also debunked by and Timothy’s own father.

Now I’m not validating the flu shot in any way, I personally don’t get one. However, if someone from the CDC wanted to warn the media why would they go to a disreputable site that has a history of fake news? Why didn’t they bring some sort of evidence with them? Where are the statics, and the research studies?

Final thoughts:
Although conspiracy theories are fun, and sometimes real, this one seems unlikely. And while everyone is running about claiming the government is killing us with flu shots, there is a very real case here. A 35-year old man is gone. No one knows why, or where. This man was a high achieving individual that set goals and accomplished them. He was a son, a friend, and was working to make the world a better place. Shouldn’t we be concerned in his disappearance?

How can you help?
Share. His story needs to be spread everywhere in hopes of generating leads for the Atlanta Police Department. Yes, Cunningham was upset about missing a promotion, but was he taken from his home against his will? We won’t know until he is found. Please share his story.

A $10,000 reward is being offered in hopes of generating leads, and the family has set up a GoFundMe page to help. If you would like to donate, I have included the link.




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Synova Cantrell is a true crime writer, fiction writer, and children’s book author. As a freelance journalist, her works could be seen online at,,, and and in five regional publications. Deeply concerned with illiteracy in America’s youth, Synova took her children’s book The Sleepy Little Sun and spoke in schools state-wide about the importance of reading. As a motivational speaker, Synova has encouraged fellow writers at local conferences, presided over a local writers’ guild, and spoke at writing workshops. For more information of her many projects log on to

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