The parents of a Philadelphia teacher who was found dead with 20 stab wounds more than a decade ago have lost their fight to overturn the ruling of suicide in her death.
Ellen Greenberg was 27 years old when her fiancé discovered her body on the kitchen floor of the Manayunk apartment they shared in January 2011.
She had 20 stab wounds to her body, including 10 to her back and neck. A 10-inch long kitchen knife was embedded in her chest.
Greenberg’s death was initally ruled a homicide and then switched to suicide which sparked a 12-year long mission by her parents to get justice for their daughter, who they believe was murdered.
But on Wednesday, the Commonwealth Court upheld the appeal of the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office and overturned a lower court’s ruling that could have reopened her death investigation, Penn Live reported.
The appellate panel ruled in a 2-1 decision that Greenberg’s parents lacked standing in their lawsuit and said they had “no choice under the law” but to grant the city’s appeal to prevent the suit from going to trial.
Joshua and Sandra of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had filed a civil lawsuit in 2019 against the city Medical Examiner’s Office and pathologist Marlon Osbourne, seeking to have the manner of their daughter’s death changed back to homicide or undetermined.
And while the majority of the panel ruled against the parents, the panel said they were “acutely aware of the deeply flawed investigation of the victim’s death by the City of Philadelphia Police Department detectives, the City of Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the Medical Examiners Office, we have no choice under the law but to reverse and remand to the Trial Court for the entry of judgment in favor of the Medical Examiners Office.”
“The facts surrounding this matter are extremely disturbing and the Parents’ tireless efforts over the past 12 years to learn exactly what happened to their daughter on the evening of January 26, 2011, warrant our sincere sympathy,” Commonwealth Judge Ellen Ceisler wrote.
“The experts they enlisted have all raised serious factual questions about Dr. Osbourne’s and Dr. [Sam] Gulino’s conclusions, and even the [medical examiner’s office] now concedes that there ‘is no dispute that evidence in the record could support other conclusions about the manner of death.’”
A blizzard pummeled Philadelphia on the night of 26 January 2011 when police arrived at Greenberg’s apartment after a 911 from her fiancé Sam Goldberg.
Police treated her death as a suicide because the apartment door was locked from the inside, there were no signs of an intruder, and Greenberg had no defensive wounds, according to previous police reports.
Mr Goldberg had come home to discover he was locked out of the apartment, and unable to use his keys because the apartment’s swing bar lock was engaged from the inside, according to an investigation report.
When he finally forced open the door, he found his fiancée’s body on the kitchen floor with her upper body propped against the cabinets and her legs splayed out in front of her, the report stated.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the medical examiner was told that authorities were “leaning” toward suicide and looking at “mental issues” she might have had.
On March 7, 2011, the medical examiner’s office reversed the ruling and changed the manner of her death to suicide.
Through the years, the family has fought to change the ruling, by enlisting in their team of experts and conducting an investigation that disputed the ruling of suicide.
But the investigation hit roadblocks along the way as it was discovered Greenberg’s apartment was never sealed as a crime scene and that it was cleaned before the forensic team could return days later.
Greenberg’s parents plan to appeal Wednesday’s decision to the state’s Supreme Court, their attorney Joseph Podraza told local news.