It was a routine inspection of a vacant Subway in a Georgia mall food court — until the worker stumbled upon a decomposing body, police said.
The Gwinnett Place Mall maintenance worker made the gruesome discovery in the back room of the shuttered sandwich shop at 11 a.m. on Dec. 21, at the height of the Christmas shopping rush, according to the Gwinnett County Police Department.
Dressed in a mesh jumpsuit and prone on the ground, the body had black tennis shoes sitting next to its feet. There were “not any obvious signs of trauma,” police said. The woman had been dead for two weeks by the time she was found, according to medical examiners.
On Jan. 10, police figured out who it was: Silling Man, a 19-year-old Georgia State University student from Lawrenceville, Georgia. Man’s family had reported her missing months earlier. Then she reappeared and disappeared again, according to police.
Six months after Man’ body was found, police think they know who killed her.
Gwinnett County police have charged Emmett Davis, 21, in Man’s homicide, authorities announced Friday. Davis was Man’s boyfriend at the time of her death, according to police.
Davis is being held at the Gwinnett County Detention Center on suspicion of murder and aggravated assault, jail records said. He was booked Thursday and is being held without bond.
Police suspect Davis killed his girlfriend at the mall by asphyxiating her, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. Gwinnett County Sgt. Jake Smith told the newspaper her chest was “restricted to the point where she couldn’t breathe, as if someone sat on her.”
Police are still investigating why the pair would have been inside the vacant Subway.
Trauma wasn’t obvious on Man’s body when authorities found it, but her remains were decomposed enough that tell-tale signs of some causes of death — including strangling — may have already faded, Smith told the Journal Constitution. There weren’t drugs or alcohol in Man’s system when she died, police said.
Before she died, Man had been living with Davis out of hotels not far from the mall where her body would eventually turn up, police said.
Davis may have been part of the reason Man ran away from home and was reported missing in October, police told the Journal Constitution. Police spoke with him repeatedly at the beginning of their investigation, but he eventually left Georgia altogether, according to police.
Recently Davis came back to the state and was living in Lawrenceville, though — and after detectives got a warrant for his home and searched it on June 14, he was arrested without incident, police said.
Police lab results and phone records provided the evidence authorities needed to charge Davis, Smith told the Journal Constitution.
In the beginning, Man’s death wasn’t officially considered a homicide, police said. That changed after local medical examiners ruled the death a homicide in March — but all along, the county’s homicide unit was involved in the investigation because of the “suspicious circumstances surrounding her death,” police said.
Relatives described Man on a GoFundMe page as “charismatic, humble, kind and generous to all of those around her.” She hoped to become a registered nurse and was a “funny, smart, selfless” honor student, family said.
Police identified the woman as Man after releasing a composite sketch of the woman who had been found.