A 19-year-old woman was discovered dead in the mall food court featured in the upcoming third season of Stranger Things. What happened, and how did her body remain unnoticed for two weeks?
The Gwinnett Place Mall hasn’t changed its appearance much since it was established in 1984. Standing two-stories high, the mall is filled with more empty stores than open, and a sprouting water fountain is its main attraction. Desolate and devoid of people on most days, the once bustling shopping center has become a ghost town for consumers in Duluth, Georgia.
The mall’s outdated appearance and vacant business space made it the perfect filming location for the Netflix series Stranger Things, which transformed the shopping center into the Starcourt Mall for the upcoming third season. Featured in the teaser trailer, Starcourt Mall has it all, including a state-of-the-art food court just an escalator ride away.
While the promo makes the mall and food court appear to be a safe haven for shoppers, the real-life location holds a dark secret: Just five months before filming began, a young woman was brutally murdered there.
On December 21, 2017, the body of 19-year-old Silling A. Man was discovered in a vacant Subway restaurant in the Gwinnett Place Mall food court. Blood spattered the floor surrounding Man’s badly decomposed body and her fingers were mummified, making it difficult for police to identify her.
Authorities released a composite sketch to the public, and Man’s family eventually recognized her and ID’d her to police. The young woman had been missing since October 10. Although, it wasn’t the first time Man had vanished.
She went missing on October 8 and her family filed a Missing Persons report. She returned home but left again as soon as police closed her case two days later. The family didn’t report her missing the second time.
Described by family as charismatic, kind, and selfless, the Georgia State University student with aspirations of becoming a registered nurse appeared to have a drastic change in her behavior in the weeks leading up to her murder.
When she vanished the second time, Man ran off with her 21-year-old boyfriend, Emmett Davis. The couple spent the last weeks of Man’s life living out of hotels near the mall. A hotel manager alleges that Man appeared to have bruising around her eyes, as if she had been beaten. When he alerted police, Man denied she was in danger.
During this time, Man’s erratic behavior continued to increase. Man got her first tattoo. It was a face tattoo–three hearts along her jawline–to match her boyfriend, who was also getting his face tattooed.
When the couple arrived at the tattoo shop on November 15, they wore identical outfits and sunglasses. The sunglasses struck the shop owner as odd because it was 8pm. The owner, who tried to dissuade Man from getting her tattoo, also observed a pistol fall from the boyfriend’s pants while they were there.
Co-workers described Man as unrecognizable when she picked up her final paycheck from her job at the Perimeter Mall on Nov. 20, 2017. She was still wearing the same clothes from five days prior, including the sunglasses. It was the last time anyone would see her alive.
When Man’s body was discovered in the mall food court, many wondered how a young woman could be decomposing for two weeks without anyone noticing. Wouldn’t there have been a horrendous odor?
If there was, no one would have been around to smell it.
All of the stores in the food court were vacant, making it easier for Man to go unnoticed. There also were no working surveillance cameras in the area of the mall, so security was not fully in place.
Lacking surveillance footage made it harder for police to uncover what happened to Man. While they believed her death was suspicious from the start, they didn’t officially rule the case a homicide until March of that year.
As they pieced elements of the case together, police slowly unraveled what happened to Man. Soon, they gathered enough evidence against the person they believed was responsible for her death from the start: Emmett Davis.
Davis was arrested for Man’s murder six months after her body was discovered. He is being charged with aggravated assault and felony murder and is currently awaiting trial.
Further details will be revealed during the court proceedings, but police were able to place Davis and Man at the mall together at 3:40 am on the night of her murder using cellphone and Uber records.
Police theorize that Davis beat Man and sat on her chest until she asphyxiated. He left her body in a back room of the restaurant and then fled to Brooklyn, NY. Davis pawned Man’s cell phone there, two days after her body was found in the mall.
Those close to Man still don’t know why she ran off with Davis and was in the mall that night; however, one thing is certain to her brother Sovandy Man who stated, “My sister and I always said that our main goals in life were to both be the best versions of ourselves. During her lifetime, Silling did just that.”