Boyfriend charged 6 months after woman found dead at Gwinnett mall

From a distance, things were going well for Silling Man. The quiet, hard-working student was in her sophomore year at Georgia State University, studying psychology. She was a Zell Miller scholar with the goal of becoming a nurse. Then, in October 2017, she vanished.

Man first disappeared on Oct. 8, and her uncle filed a missing persons report. She came back to the home where she lived with her uncle the next day. When she ran away from home again on Oct. 10, a new report wasn’t filed.

The 19-year-old was found two months later, dead in a vacant restaurant in the Gwinnett Place Mall food court.

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There was no obvious sign of trauma when police found Man’s body on Dec. 21, but the body was in a state of decomposition that would have made it impossible to know if she had bruises or other marks that could help determine what had happened, said Gwinnett County Police Sgt. Jake Smith.

Her death was initially ruled suspicious, but police thought it was a homicide early on.

“Everybody agreed it was suspicious and suspicious specifically as a homicide,” Smith said.

Nearly six months after Man's body was found, police made an arrest. Emmett Davis, 21, who police say was Man’s boyfriend, has been charged with aggravated assault and felony murder. He was taken into custody Thursday.

When Man disappeared on Oct. 10, she left to be with Davis, who she had been dating for several months, according to police. The pair spent the next few weeks living out of hotels near the Duluth mall, police said. For a while, Man continued working a retail job at the Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody, picking up her last paycheck from the Michael Kors store on Nov. 20.

Gwinnett Place Mall’s security cameras weren’t working around the time of Man’s death. Police don’t know what Man and Davis may have been doing in the mall, which has struggled to maintain tenants and has several empty stores.

At least two weeks before Man’s body was found on Dec. 21, she was asphyxiated by Davis, police think. Man’s chest was “restricted to the point where she couldn’t breathe, as if someone sat on her,” Smith said.

Emmett Davis has been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.

Credit: Gwinnett County Police Department

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Credit: Gwinnett County Police Department

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Man's body was not transported from a second location to the vacant Subway restaurant, leading police to believe she was killed at the mall.

Police became aware of Davis soon after identifying Man’s body, and interviewed him multiple times early in the investigation. There was not enough evidence to charge Davis early on, but warrants were obtained after police received lab results and subpoenas for phone records.

Davis left Georgia shortly after Man’s body was identified, spending some time in New York for unknown reasons before returning to Lawrenceville in recent weeks, according to police.

“We did suspect the boyfriend all along so this news didn’t really come as a surprise,” Man’s aunt Bunny Cruz told Channel 2 Action News.

Cruz did not respond to follow-up questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. No one answered the door Friday at the Lawrenceville home of Man's uncle. He told a reporter via text that he had no comment and was concerned for the family's safety.

Davis is being held without bond at the Gwinnett County Detention Center.

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