Is twenty stab wounds death by suicide? We didn’t think so, but a medical examiner in Pennsylvania ruled the death of Ellen Greenberg a suicide in 2011 after she suffered twenty stab wounds. Although the cause of death sounds more like an unsolved murder than a suicide, medical examiners at the time ruled Greenberg’s death a suicide.
After fighting for over a decade, Greenberg’s parents have enough grounds to move ahead with a non-jury civil trial, according to a ruling by a judge. Greenberg’s parents are suing to change her cause of death to homicide rather than suicide.
That leads us to the big questions: why would anyone think twenty stab wounds was anything other than a murder, and wouldn’t ruling the death a suicide ensure said murder goes unsolved? Hmmmm . . . Let’s dive deeper into this seemingly fishy case.
Ellen Greenberg was a twenty-seven-year-old first-grade teacher who came home early one afternoon due to a forecasted snowstorm. According to sources, she returned to her apartment around one in the afternoon. She taught at Juanita Park Academy and was described as “beloved” by CBS Philly. Her father, Josh, described her as a “very, very good, caring person”.
The following day, per The New York Post, her fiance Sam Goldberg found her after he came back from the gym dead from stab wounds. According to police, she had stab wounds on her head, neck, torso, and chest. Although she had that many stab wounds, plus ten in the back according to Crime Scoop, medical officials declared her death a suicide rather than a murder.
For those unfamiliar with the world of true crime & unsolved murder, NASH is the system most coroners & medical examiners, at least those in the U.S., use to determine the cause of death. NASH is an acronym for the four possible causes of death that examiners can list on a death certificate: natural causes, accidental, suicide, or homicide.
Natural causes can be anything from a heart attack to cancer. Accidental death refers to car crashes or deadly falls. Suicide & homicide, plus the aforementioned, are pretty self-explanatory, right?
In this case, there’s doubt. According to officials, there was no sign of forced entry, and there weren’t any other signs of an intruder like stolen property or a broken down door. Plus officials cited Greenberg’s history of anxiety, and prescriptions that have side effects including suicide ideation, as cause enough to rule the death a suicide and not a homicide.
However, no one would guess that someone would die by suicide by stabbing themselves twenty times. And who can reach around and stab themselves ten times in the back? Initially, the cause of death was enough for officials to rule the death a homicide, but according to The Washington Post, officials reversed their decisions and ruled Greenberg’s death a suicide a month later.
SUICIDE OR HOMICIDE?
More than ten years since the death of a Phila. school teacher – after she was found stabbed 20 times – her family is going to court Friday to argue her death was homicide.
— Matt Petrillo (@MattPetrillo) October 15, 2021
Justice for Ellen
Twenty stab wounds appear more in the realm of unsolved murder than suicide. That’s why Ellen Greenberg’s parents have been fighting to change the cause of death to homicide for over a decade. According to a Change.org petition:
“After initially ruling Ellen’s death to be a homicide, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Officer, at the insistence of the Philadelphia Police, suspiciously reversed itself weeks later and declared Ellen’s death to be a suicide. Top forensic pathologists all agree the case is highly suspicious of murder.”
The petition further elaborated that official corruption could be to blame and addressed PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is slated to run for governor in 2022. “Josh Shapiro is planning to run for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2022 – our hope is everyone can persuade Josh Shapiro that he cannot sweep Ellen’s case under the rug as he seeks a higher office.”
However, according to the Greenbergs’ attorney, there was evidence of a struggle, particularly – according to The Washington Post – an overturned kitchen knife block on the counter and a blood splatter on Greenberg’s face that could have suggested that her body was moved.
There were many more clues pointing to Greenberg’s death being an unsolved murder rather than suicide. For example, she filled up her gas tank before returning to her apartment the afternoon she was murdered, and a half-eaten fruit salad was found at the scene of her death.
Also, according to The Washington Post, a security guard claimed he wasn’t with Greenberg’s fiance when he breached the door – surveillance footage seemed to corroborate the guard’s story. The Post further stated that Greenberg’s former fiance, Sam Goldberg, would not answer their calls regarding the case.
However, per city officials, the cause of death was based on “years of experience” and isn’t barring anyone from investigating Greenberg’s death as an unsolved murder. “The medical examiner’s determination is binding on no one . . . If a prosecuting authority were convinced that Ellen Greenberg was murdered, there is no statute of limitations on homicide and they could pursue it,” city officials declared in an official statement.
Do you think Ellen Greenberg’s death is an unsolved murder, a suicide, or do you think the evidence is inconclusive? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.