On January 26, 2011, 27-year-old Ellen Greenberg was found violently stabbed to death in her Philadelphia apartment. The horrific and fuzzy crime scene initially led police to declare Ellen’s death a homicide. But soon after, they made a dramatic u-turn, ruling it a suicide, plunging the case into enduring mystery.
For nearly a decade, Ellen’s family has clung to hope, their hearts echoing with questions. How could someone stab themselves so violently—twenty times—without leaving a single mark of resistance? Why were the scissor blades pristine, devoid of blood or tissue? And what dark secrets lay beneath the surface, veiled by the official verdict?
Ellen’s Vibrant Life Cruelly Cut Short
By all accounts, Ellen Greenberg was a vibrant young woman who loved life. She was a dedicated first-grade teacher who adored her students at Juniata Park Academy in Philadelphia. She was happily engaged to her college sweetheart, Sam Goldberg, who tragically discovered her body.
In the months leading up to her death, Ellen had begun suffering from escalating anxiety and stress, though the reasons remained unclear even to close friends and family. She had begun seeing a psychiatrist and was briefly prescribed anti-anxiety medication, but seemed to be improving in the final weeks. Her friends described Ellen as joyful, caring, and exhibiting no suicidal tendencies or depression.
On the day she died, Ellen made afternoon plans to see her mother and seemed excited about an upcoming school event. She did not indicate that she was mentally unstable or imminently planning to violently take her own life. Those closest to Ellen firmly believe she was too happy and stable to ever commit such a horrific act of suicide. So how did this promising young woman’s life get cut devastatingly short?
The Chilling Crime Scene
On January 26, 2011, as snow blanketed Philadelphia, Ellen left school early and returned home to her apartment. Her fiancé Sam told police he left around 4:45 pm to go exercise at their building’s gym. When he returned around 6:30 pm, Sam found the front door locked. After shouting Ellen’s name and texting her increasingly agitated messages, Sam had the security guard help break down the door.
Inside, they were confronted by a gruesome scene in the small kitchen. Ellen was found seated on the floor drenched in blood, a 10-inch serrated knife protruding from her chest. She had suffered over 20 stab wounds all over her body. In addition to 8 tightly clustered wounds to her chest, Ellen had been viciously stabbed 10 times in the back of her neck. She also had wounds to her scalp, abdomen, arms, and wrists.
An autopsy and analysis of blood spatter patterns revealed that Ellen was attacked while lying down, but her body was found propped up in a seated position. No noteworthy fingerprints or DNA other than Ellen’s were recovered from the scene. The time of death was estimated between 5:30 and 6:30 pm based on when Ellen was last active on her computer. Ellen was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS at 6:40 pm.
Initially assessed by police as an evident suicide, Ellen’s cause of death was changed to homicide the next day after her autopsy. But shortly after, the Medical Examiner’s office reversed course yet again, officially ruling her brutal death a suicide.
Highly Suspicious Factors Pointing to Homicide
Ellen’s grieving loved ones were shocked and confounded by the sudden suicide ruling. Given Ellen’s happiness and promising future, how could this vibrant young woman have conceivably stabbed herself over 20 times in such a violent frenzy? The ambiguous and conflicting evidence fueled their belief that Ellen had been murdered.
Several highly troubling factors cast serious doubt on the suicide theory:
- Number and placement of wounds – Stabbing oneself 20 times in a barrage, including 10 forceful punctures to the back of one’s neck, defies logic for suicide. The number, depth, and location indicate an enraged assailant’s attack, not self-infliction.
- No suicide note – No communication of any kind revealed suicidal plotting or explanation for her violent end.
- Defensive wounds – Injuries found on Ellen’s wrists and hands imply a struggle while trying to defend herself from an assailant, not self-harm.
- Crime scene evidence – Blood spatter showed Ellen was attacked while lying down, but she was found propped sitting upright, indicating the scene was staged.
- Right-handedness – The murder weapon was clutched in Ellen’s right hand, yet she was left-handed. Highly unnatural placement if self-inflicted.
- Pre-mortem wounds – The spinal stab wound thought to have paralyzed Ellen showed no bleeding, indicating it was likely post-mortem when she was possibly already dead. This casts serious doubt on her ability to continue stabbing herself.
- Plans – On the day she died, Ellen spoke cheerfully about plans with her mother and work events. No one suspected suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
Ellen and Sam’s Relationship
By all accounts, Ellen and Sam appeared to have a normal, loving relationship in the years before Ellen’s death. They met as students at Lafayette College and dated for several years before getting engaged in 2009. Though Ellen briefly mentioned to her parents that she was stressed about her job as a teacher, she denied any relationship issues with Sam or problems at home when asked.
However, some have theorized that the couple may have been struggling under the surface, especially as their wedding date approached. Though purely speculative, Ellen may have been hiding issues of domestic abuse or wanted to end the engagement, which could potentially provide a motive for murder. But with no witnesses or Clear evidence, the true nature of their relationship in the final weeks remains a mystery.
The Primary Suspect – Ellen’s Own Fiancé – Sam Goldberg
If Ellen endured a prolonged, violently brutal homicide as evidence suggests, who would have had the opportunity to murder her undetected? Suspicion immediately turned to Ellen’s fiancé Sam, the only person confirmed to be in the apartment around the estimated timeframe of the gruesome attack.
Here is the timeline pieced together of Sam’s questionable movements and statements:
- 4:50 pm – Sam leaves the apartment, claiming he’s going to their building’s gym
- 5:27 pm – Texts are sent from Sam’s phone to Ellen after he supposedly left the gym
- 5:30-6:30 pm – Estimated window of attack, based on when Ellen was last active on her computer
- 6:31 pm – Sam calls 911 to report finding Ellen’s body after returning home
This left approximately a one-hour window of time for Sam to allegedly stab Ellen to death in a violent rage, clean himself up, dispose of blood-stained clothes and the murder weapon, stage a suicide scene, and get his story straight before placing the 911 call.
Additionally, Sam’s bizarrely calm, flat demeanour during the 911 call made detectives immediately suspicious. He sounded chillingly unfazed and emotionless at the sight of his bride-to-be savagely stabbed on the floor. Sam also failed to notice the large knife protruding from Ellen’s chest until the operator told him to perform CPR.
While no eyewitness testimony or forensic evidence directly implicates Sam, the body of highly circumstantial evidence centring around Ellen’s fiancé is quite substantial and compelling.
Alternative Theories – Accident or Intruder?
While homicide and suicide are the predominant theories, some have speculated about other possible scenarios:
- Accidental death – Perhaps Ellen stabbed herself initially due to a psychotic break, prompting Sam to try unsuccessfully to save her by removing the knife, resulting in more wounds. But with no history of mental illness, this remains highly unlikely.
- Intruder murder – An unknown intruder could theoretically have managed to enter the apartment and kill Ellen before escaping somehow. But a murderer slipping in and out unnoticed in a short time frame seems implausible.
Despite these alternate conjectures, the vast evidence points to either a deeply suicidal Ellen or Sam murdering his bride-to-be in a fit of rage.
A Determined Family’s Fight for Justice
In the decade since their daughter’s horrific death, Josh and Sandra Greenberg have devoted themselves to uncovering the truth about what happened to Ellen. Convinced she did not violently take her own life, they have enlisted a series of renowned forensic experts to reexamine the case’s ambiguous and contradictory evidence.
Dr. Cyril Wecht, a high-profile forensic pathologist, firmly concluded the number and nature of Ellen’s wounds were highly suspicious of homicide, not suicide. Retired police sergeant Tom Brennan noted the odd horizontal blood flow on Ellen’s face and signs of overlooked manual strangulation pointed to murder.
Famed forensic scientist Dr Henry Lee stated the blood spatter patterns and wound locations indicated Ellen suffered a violent homicidal struggle, not self-infliction. But so far, these conflicting medical opinions have provided no definitive legal proof that Ellen was murdered.
With inadequate physical evidence and inconsistent forensic analysis, Ellen’s baffling cause of death remains clouded in mystery. Her persistent parents still passionately seek answers, justice, and closure nearly 10 years later.
An Enduring Mystery – Will the Truth Emerge?
To this day, compelling yet ultimately inconclusive evidence exists on both sides of this perplexing case. Ellen’s apparent miraculous ability to stab herself 20 times conflicts with her having so much to look forward to in life. Those closest to Ellen maintain she would never take her own life, let alone in such a monstrously violent manner.
But with no forensic link definitively proving an outside killer’s involvement, reasonable doubt around Ellen’s possible suicide lingers. Without a confession, we may never fully unravel the mystery of what truly transpired in Ellen Greenberg’s final moments.
The conflicting and ambiguous existing evidence allows for competing narratives of apparent suicide and potential homicide. Ellen’s death remains a chilling unresolved cold case – an enduring mystery leaving her family eternally mourning and fighting for elusive answers.
Ellen’s mysterious case highlights the immense frustration faced by suffering families left with unclear forensic evidence and unanswered questions when a loved one dies in suspicious circumstances. Seeking truth and justice, Ellen’s parents continue their quest even now, over a decade later, driven by unwavering devotion to their daughter.
People also asked –
Q: What happened to Ellen Greenberg? A: Ellen Greenberg, a 27-year-old first-grade teacher, was found dead in her apartment on January 26, 2011, as a result of twenty stab wounds, including ten to the back of her head and neck.
Q: What was the ruling on Ellen Greenberg’s death? A: The initial ruling on Ellen Greenberg’s death was a homicide, but it was later changed to suicide at the insistence of the police, which has been a point of contention.
Q: Why is there controversy surrounding Ellen Greenberg’s death? A: The controversy stems from the ruling change from homicide to suicide, despite the evidence of multiple stab wounds. This has led to suspicions of foul play and a call for further investigation by her parents and forensic experts.
Q: Has there been any progress in reclassifying Ellen Greenberg’s manner of death? A: Ellen’s parents have sought to adjust her manner of death to “homicide” or “undetermined,” but they have faced legal challenges in their quest to overturn the ruling of suicide.
Q: What was the cause of Ellen Greenberg’s death? A: Ellen Greenberg’s cause of death was initially ruled a homicide due to 20 stab wounds, but later changed to suicide by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office. Her parents, Joshua and Sandee Greenberg, have filed a civil suit to change the cause of death, which was ruled against by a Pennsylvania court in 2023.
Q: Did Samuel Goldberg kill Ellen Greenberg? A: Samuel Goldberg, Ellen Greenberg’s fiancé at the time of her death, has not been arrested or charged in connection with her death. The Greenbergs have filed civil suits against members of the Medical Examiner’s Office, the Police Department, and the DA’s Office seeking monetary damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Goldberg and his family have long declined to comment on the case.