She Died Of 20 Stab Wounds. The Police Call It ‘Suicide’.
Ellen Greenberg was a 27-year-old elementary school teacher living in Philadelphia, PA with her fiancé Sam Goldberg, a producer for NBC.
On January 26, 2011 Ellen left her job early due to heavy snow hitting the area. She returned to her apartment and was with Sam Goldberg until 4:45pm when he left to go to the gym inside the apartment building. After 30 minutes Goldberg returned but found he was locked out of the apartment, first attempting to use his key, then knocking loudly on the door, then trying to reach Greenberg by phone. He texted her for 22 minutes before eventually breaking into the apartment.
At 6:33pm Ellen Greenberg’s body was discovered. She had been stabbed 20 times and was found with a serrated knife sticking out of her chest. 10 of her stab wounds were on her neck and head. Her lunch was sitting half made on the counter. Greenberg still clutched a clean white towel in her hand. Bizarrely, the crime scene was treated as a suicide.
On January 27, 2011 the Philadelphia medical examiner ruled that Greenberg’s death was a homicide. Police detectives working the case overruled the medical examiner and her official cause of death was suicide. Here is a summary of the medical examiner’s report:
He labeled her stab wounds with letters, beginning with A. He stopped at T.
He noted eight wounds to her chest. They ranged from punctures just .2 centimeters deep to the 4-inch final plunge of the still-embedded knife.
She had a 2-inch stab wound to her stomach and a 2.5-inch-long gash across her scalp.
There were 10 wounds — from nicks to two about 3 inches deep — on the back of Ellen’s neck.
And there were 11 bruises “in various stages of resolution” on Ellen’s right arm, abdomen, and right leg.
At the end of the autopsy, Osbourne weighed all his observations and reached a manner of death: homicide.
The crime scene was contained to the apartment’s kitchen and there weren’t signs of an intruder, especially since the door was locked from the inside. Greenberg’s body also lacked defensive wounds, but many of her stab wounds were to her back and neck, so she may have been blitz attacked and unable to fight back. Neighbors hadn’t heard anything unusual. All the blood on the knife and in the kitchen was found to belong to Greenberg alone.
Because the door was locked police also looked for other entrances to the apartment, but the only other entrance was a balcony, which was filled with freshly fallen, undisturbed snow. They thought Ellen’s fiancé, Sam Goldberg, was cooperative. He didn’t have any fresh wounds and seemed to act as a normal bereaved boyfriend.
The apartment building where Greenberg and Goldberg lived had a fob system that could track people coming into the building. Police were able to verify both that Goldberg’s story aligned with his fob history, and that no one without a fob had been in the apartment building around the time of Greenberg’s death. Security camera footage confirmed this.
Ellen had recently displayed a strange shift in behavior. Despite being engaged, she had asked her parents about moving home with them. Her parents encouraged Greenberg to see a mental health professional, which she did for three sessions. The psychiatrist was interviewed and says Ellen was not suicidal and seemed happy with her relationship with Goldberg. She was prescribed Klonopin and Ambien, which were found in her bloodstream in the autopsy.
Upon searching Ellen’s computer, a search for “painless suicide” was found. However “painless suicide” doesn’t match up with Ellen’s actual death, which included 20 stab wounds and was excessively painful.
On March 7, 2011, the medical examiner officially backed police and changed their ruling from homicide to suicide. They theorized that one of the stab wounds in the back of Ellen’s neck could have caused her to lose feeling in her body, allowing her to continue stabbing herself. Greenberg’s parents responded by hiring their own forensic pathologist who investigated the case and strongly agreed that she was most likely killed by homicide. A third pathologist who examined Greenberg’s neck wound thought her cranial nerves had been severed, which would have caused her to pass out. A fourth pathologist also found Greenberg’s wounds were most consistent with homicide.
New investigators also noted that it’s possible to lock a door like Ellen’s from the outside. Instructions for how to do this are widely available on the internet. They also seemed surprised Sam Goldberg had such trouble getting into the apartment, given that the lock was flimsy.
In 2019, Ellen Greenberg’s parents sued the original pathologist who conducted her autopsy and the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office as an entity. The case has moved forward and a trial will be held this year.
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