Woman found dead at Gwinnett mall was top student, driven to succeed

Silling Man, shown in a video made for a college assignment, was found dead inside Gwinnett Place Mall on Dec. 21.

Credit: Stevens, Alexis (CMG-Atlanta)

Credit: Stevens, Alexis (CMG-Atlanta)

Silling Man, shown in a video made for a college assignment, was found dead inside Gwinnett Place Mall on Dec. 21.

She didn’t just take the hard classes to make her high school transcripts shine. Silling Man had a genuine desire to learn, so she took the hardest classes — and excelled.

“She would still read the chapters and take notes over the information we didn’t even go over,” Lancer Smith, science teacher at Central Gwinnett High School, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “She really wanted to know it.”

Man was a top student in the class of 2016, was involved in countless school activities and earned enough money working to buy herself a car. Always smiling, Man was the young woman who always seemed to have the answers, both inside and outside the classroom. But now, the 19 year old’s family and friends are the ones needing answers.

In December, Gwinnett County police said a young woman’s body was found in a vacant restaurant space at Gwinnett Place Mall. The mall’s food court was empty, without a single open business. A GBI artist completed a sketch of the woman, but Man’s friends didn’t immediately see the resemblance. On Wednesday, police identified the woman as Man.

“Our family is incredibly shocked and truly devastated at this sudden loss of such an amazing individual,” Man’s brother posted on an online fundraising page. “Silling was charismatic, humble, kind and generous to all of those around her and will extremely be missed by her countless family and friends.”

A woman found dead at Gwinnett Place Mall before Christmas has been identified. Police named Silling A. Man, a 19-year-old from Lawrenceville. Man's death has not been ruled a homicide, but police are still investigating. She was a student at Georgia State University, police said. Anyone with relevant information should call a Gwinnett County detective at 770-513-5300.

The discovery has left Man’s friends reeling.

Zykia Williams had seen a news report about a woman’s body being found at the mall during her holiday break from Savannah State University. She was shocked to learn this week that it her high school friend, the one she’d had a class with every year.

“Just to know that it was her found, it was surreal,” Williams said Thursday. “Dang, it was Silling?”

Investigators determined Man's body had likely been in the mall for two weeks before it was found by a mall employee. There were no obvious signs of trauma, and the Gwinnett medical examiner's office said routine toxicology testing could take up to 12 weeks. But how had Man ended up in that mall? The once-thriving mall now struggles to find retailers and shoppers.

“I really don’t know who goes to that mall,” Williams said. “It is unbelievable that nobody knew she was there.”

Thousands of empty parking spaces surround Gwinnett Place. The Duluth mall that has seen a sharp decline in shoppers and retailers. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

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In October, Man’s family had reported her missing, but she returned home within two days, according to police. But she again left home, and this time, it wasn’t reported to police. Before that first missing person report, Man had not had any contact with Gwinnett County police, a spokeswoman said.

Smith, who taught AP environmental science, often served as a mentor to Man outside of class. When it was time to submit her college applications, Man asked Smith to proofread them. She would have been accepted at other schools, but Man ultimately chose Georgia State over the University of Georgia.

“She could’ve done just about whatever she wanted,” Smith said. “She did everything. And everything she did, she did really well.”

A psychology major, Man did not enroll in spring semester classes at Georgia State.

While in high school, she was a Mary Kay consultant and worked a retail job, Smith said. In November, Man picked up her final paycheck from the Michael Kors store in Perimeter Mall, according to police.

High school classmates remembered Man as a hard-working student. John’Air Nicole Wiley was in one class with Man at Central Gwinnett and remembered her as “smart and energetic.”

Man was a member of the high school Beta club, student leadership team, National English honor society and was an anchor on the school news. She was also the Spanish club president, Smith said. Man also ran on the cross country team and participated in the debate club, Williams said.

“My sister and I always said that our main goals in life were to both be the best versions of ourselves,” Sovandy Man posted online. “During her lifetime, Silling did just that.”

Despite her hard work and dedication to her studies, Man still found time to connect with friends, letting them know she cared.

“Silling was always a person that was smiling and happy,” Williams said. “If you were sad, she’d try to make you feel better.”

The investigation into Man’s death continued Thursday. Police are looking to speak with people that spent time with Man between October and December. Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact Gwinnett police at 770-513-5300. Funeral arrangements had not been finalized.