A 10-year journey to find the truth will finally move forward for the parents of a woman they believe was murdered and whose death they say was wrongly ruled a suicide.
Ellen Greenberg died in January 2011. When she was found dead in her apartment, the 27-year-old teacher had 20 stab wounds. The medical examiner, after wavering, ruled her death a suicide.
Her parents have refused to accept that as the truth and now have been allowed a non-jury trial after they sued the coroner’s office, according to KYW-TV.
“We look forward to the trial in hopes of obtaining justice for Ellen,” Sandra Greenberg, Ellen’s mother, said.
Medical examiner Marlon Osbourne at one point issued a preliminary ruling that her death was a homicide, then issued a final ruling of suicide.
As recounted by The Washington Post, the case lacked much in the way of evidence that anyone else but Ellen Greenberg had been in the apartment. Access was either by the balcony or front door. The door was barred from the inside and there were no fresh footprints in the snow of the balcony. There were no signs of robbery.
One of the most telling items was that she had no defensive wounds, and there was only her DNA found on the knife and her clothes. She had been seeing a psychiatrist, and suicide ideation was a side effect of the medicines she was taking.
But the family never believed the March 2011 ruling that their daughter killed herself because she was happy in her life.
“It makes no sense,” said the Greenbergs’ attorney, Joseph Podraza, who added the 10-year battle has been motivated by the parents’ love for their daughter.
“They want to know what happened to their daughter,” he said.
However, Ellen Berkowitz, the city’s lawyer, said there is no legal way to do what the parents want.
“They essentially ask this Court to sit as a sur-medical examiner, to overrule the determination of the medical professional vested by state law and the Philadelphia Code with the sole responsibility and discretion to determine the cause and manner of death,” Berkowitz wrote in a court filing.
But the family has raised questions. On the day she died, Ellen Greenberg filled up her gas tank on her way home from work. There was no note.
On the day she died, a partially eaten fruit salad was found in the kitchen near her body.
Podraza has argued in court that the knife block in the kitchen was on its side, claiming it could be a sign of a struggle. There was a large gash on the back of her head, which he has argued could be a sign she was hit from behind, and could explain why she did not try to defend herself.
“We now know, as far as I’m concerned, that this was not a suicide,” he told the Post.
The city has argued that the ruling is not a bar to an investigation if there is anything to investigate.
“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,” the city said.
Podraza said Greenberg’s parents want a “forthright, complete investigation.”
Their purpose, now, though, is to answer the question Podraza posed: “Is this a suicide, or is this something else?”