Discussion » Questions » Legal » How can a person's death with a post-mortem stab wound be ruled as suicide?

How can a person's death with a post-mortem stab wound be ruled as suicide?

Link to case

Link to petition to reopen the case. 

Posted - September 15, 2023


  • 23214

    I had read another article before coming back to the article you shared here. I saw the name in your address and looked up her name. Your article was similar to the one I read.

    Based on the article I read in length, I find it strange how someone who was stabbed 20 times (mostly in the back of the neck) is even considered a suicide in the first place, let alone one of those wounds seemingly occurring after she was dead.

    EDIT: After looking closer and reading your article, I saw that your posted article in your question is from December of 2021 -- the article I read was from two days ago, September 14, 2023. From Patriot news/ Penn live. I thought I'd post the article I read.

    Ellen Greenberg’s parents lose court case to overturn ruling of suicide in her death: ‘Beyond tears’

    • Updated: Sep. 14, 2023, 8:21 a.m.|
    • Published: Sep. 13, 2023, 12:35 p.m.
    Ellen Greenberg's parents lose court case over daughter's suicide ruling

    Ellen Greenberg's parents, Sandee and Joshua, have been waging a legal crusade to prove Ellen didn't commit suicide and instead was murdered in Jan. 2011. The parents suffered a major legal setback in that battle with Commonwealth Court's ruling on Wednesday.


    12-year quest to overturn a coroner’s ruling of suicide in Ellen Greenberg’s brutal stabbing death has ended in a legal defeat for her Harrisburg area parents.


    “We’re deeply disgusted,” Ellen’s mother, Sandee Greenberg of Lower Paxton Township, told PennLive Wednesday morning in wake of the court opinion. “I’m beyond tears.”


    This, after Commonwealth Court upheld the appeal of the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office and overturned a lower court’s ruling that could have reopened Ellen’s death investigation from January 2011.


    The Greenbergs have been hammering away for the past decade, trying to change the ruling that the bizarre, bloody death of their 27-year-old daughter was a suicide.


    The freckle-faced elementary school teacher, who grew up in the Harrisburg area, was found slumped on the kitchen floor of the Manayunk apartment she shared with her fiancé in January 2011. Ellen had been stabbed 20 times, mostly in the back of her neck and head and in her chest. A 10-inch kitchen knife was buried in her chest.


    On the snowy, stormy evening of Jan. 26, 2011, Ellen, who was being medically treated for anxiety, was found by her fiancé bloodied and lifeless in the kitchen of her apparently locked unit in the Venice Lofts apartment building. Philadelphia detectives who responded to the fiancé's 911 call treated the death as a suicide, and they did not hold the apartment as a crime scene.


    The following day, her death was ruled a homicide by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s office after an autopsy. Philadelphia pathologist Dr. Marlon Osbourne cited “multiple stab wounds by an unknown person” in his ruling.


    Ellen’s dad, Joshua Greenberg, was about to eulogize his daughter at a Harrisburg synagogue when he received the news. As grim as it was, he welcomed it because it meant Ellen didn’t take her own life — something her parents never believed possible.


    Yet, the newly launched homicide investigation was hampered from the start. The apartment where Ellen died, never sealed as a crime scene, was cleaned and sanitized before detectives and their forensics team secured a search warrant and returned to it on Jan. 28.


    With little evidence to go on, the investigation went nowhere. Then on April 4, 2011, the rug was pulled out from under the probe.


    Osbourne, the pathologist who performed the autopsy and initially ruled the death a homicide, amended Ellen’s death certificate, officially changing the manner of death to suicide. It has remained a suicide ever since, despite the Greenberg’s ongoing efforts – and an estimated half-million dollars in expenses – to challenge it with their own evidence and a pair of lawsuits.


    The Greenbergs, their attorneys and a private detective said the evidence they’ve collected show Ellen’s death ruling was changed after a meeting among police, at least one prosecutor and two medical examiner officials handling the Greenberg case. This evidence includes the ME officials’ own depositions describing the meeting.


    A separate civil suit filed by the Greenbergs and accusing the police, prosecutors and ME officials involved in the meeting of “individual and willful misconduct and participating in a conspiracy to cover up the murder of Ellen R. Greenberg” remains active. That suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.


    But the court case appealing the medical examiner’s ruling itself — professional determinations that are all-but unassailable under Pa. law that grants coroner’s and ME’s wide latitude and discretion in determining cause and manner of death — is now effectively ended by the Commonwealth Court opinion siding with the ME’s office.


    The court opinion, issued Wednesday, reads in part: “While this Court is 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.”


    Among the issues in the case, the court decided that the Greenbergs, who brought the legal action against the ME’s office as administrators of Ellen’s estate, lacked legal standing to do so.


    A ruling in the Greenberg’s favor could have advanced Ellen’s death investigation, clearing the way for evidence the family collected to be presented in court. It also could have set a new legal standard, establishing specific grounds for appealing manner of death rulings in Pennsylvania. The court decision ends those possibilities.


    Said Sandee Greenberg: “We have a conclusion. It’s not the one we wanted.”


    Still, the written Commonwealth Court opinion states that the Greenbergs should receive the review of Ellen’s death and the resulting investigation that they are seeking, regardless of court’s legal ruling going against them.


    “In the interests of justice, we believe that providing a detailed review of the victim’s death and the ensuing investigation is clearly warranted with hopes that equity may one day prevail for the victim and her loved ones,” the court wrote.


    Sandee Greenberg told PennLive she and her husband are still reading over the court opinion and had yet to decide their next steps. But she said the second legal case alleging a conspiracy on the part of Philadelphia medical examiners, police and prosecutors would go on.


    READ PennLive’s series on the Greenberg’s evidence-based crusade to re-open their daughter’s death investigation here:


    Part One: Ellen Greenberg died by ‘suicide’ with 20 stab wounds. Her parents are out to prove that’s impossible


    Part Two: The Greenbergs’ private detective uncovers a potential bombshell that Ellen was likely dead when one of her supposed self-inflicted knife wounds was struck -- and Philly ME officials knew this.



    Part Three: The Greenbergs’ investigation focuses on each of Ellen’s 20 stab wounds, along with her multiple bruises, old and new.






    READ MORE: Murder or suicide? Ellen Greenberg’s parents ask FBI for corruption probe in daughter’s 2011



    This post was edited by WelbyQuentin at September 16, 2023 11:52 AM MDT
      September 16, 2023 7:04 AM MDT

  • 33165
    Thank you. For the newer article. 
    I just don't see  how it could be ruled suicide with a post-mortem wound....
      September 16, 2023 9:18 AM MDT

  • 17503
    No one seems to believe this was a suicide because the premise is outrageous.  The woman didn't stab herself 20 times in the back of her neck and shoulders.  Thank goodness for good citizens deciding to not accept this ridiculous manner of death finding. 
      September 16, 2023 1:15 PM MDT

  • 33165
    And you certainly cannot stab yourself after you are already dead. This post was edited by my2cents at September 17, 2023 6:23 AM MDT
      September 16, 2023 3:28 PM MDT

  • 17503
    No, but someone else can.  When someone is stabbed so many times, death could come with the first or second stab.  The last stab could have been part of the attack but late enough to not cause those things the coroner claims indicates it was inflicted after death. The case is old but the family never bought the suicide explanation. How could they?  How could anyone?
      September 17, 2023 9:01 AM MDT

  • 23214
    You're welcome, for sure.
    I'm with Danilo_G, too, on his answer.
    If I read this in a fiction book plot, I'd find it hard to believe.
    You don't have to share if you don't want to, but I wondered where you heard about this sad event. I'm surprised "the world" had not heard about this case.
    With all the unsolved mysteries and true crime shows that repeat the same murders/crimes, I've never heard of this case. And I almost call this one crazy.

    Yes, the post-mortem wound is important but the 20 stabs/suicide, in general, is crazy to me.

    This post was edited by WelbyQuentin at September 17, 2023 6:23 AM MDT
      September 16, 2023 6:30 PM MDT

  • 33165
    It was mentioned on a ProTrump site I follow. 
      September 17, 2023 6:21 AM MDT

  • 23214
    A pro-Trump site? Did Hunter get accused of killing her? (Joke)

    For my selfish reason, I'm glad for whatever reason it was mentioned and that you chose to share. Never heard of this strange, very sad case.

    I'm glad Jane S shared here, too.

    This post was edited by WelbyQuentin at September 22, 2023 6:22 PM MDT
      September 22, 2023 3:36 PM MDT

  • 23214
    I wanted to explain my use of "selfish reason" --  in context of the tragedy for Greenberg and her family, and the difficulty of the following years for her family and friends, my appreciation for finding out about it just now may sound selfish.

    I'm trying to make some sense. Ha.
    Anyway, again - - I'm glad you shared about this case. Thanks. :)

    This post was edited by WelbyQuentin at September 22, 2023 10:05 PM MDT
      September 22, 2023 10:05 PM MDT

  • 10248
    Here's a true crime Podcaster I watch, who covered this a couple years ago.
      September 17, 2023 10:43 AM MDT

  • 23214
    Thanks so much! I plan to watch this! This case certainly strikes me as out of the ordinary.
      September 22, 2023 3:33 PM MDT

  • 60
    I wouldn't rule that as suicide.
      September 16, 2023 7:35 AM MDT

  • 33165
    I would not either.
      September 17, 2023 6:22 AM MDT

  • 3093
    It's a puzzlement.
      September 16, 2023 10:01 AM MDT

  • 33165
    Makes no sense.
      September 16, 2023 3:28 PM MDT

  • 1456
    One of the weirdest things I've ever heard. Sounds like certain people didn't want to do their job. I'm so sorry for the victim and her family.
      September 16, 2023 5:37 PM MDT

  • 23214
    I'm with you on your answer.
      September 16, 2023 6:32 PM MDT

  • 33165
    Sounds like a cover up for someone to me.
      September 17, 2023 5:15 AM MDT

  • 10248
    This case was never properly investigated and ruling it a suicide meant it didn't have to be. The question is who are they protecting and why. It seems likely her fiance was involved, but we may never know.
      September 17, 2023 11:05 AM MDT

  • 33165
    No, suicide means they are claiming she killed herself.  
    But yes, someone is being protected. No doubts there.
      September 17, 2023 5:51 PM MDT

  • 10248
    Thanks, but I know what the word suicide means. What I was trying to communicate is that by saying she killed herself, they did not have to look for any other person who may have done it.
      September 18, 2023 7:11 AM MDT

  • 23214
    I followed you on your answer. :)
      September 22, 2023 3:38 PM MDT

  • 33165
    Thank you. I see what you are saying now.
      September 22, 2023 6:55 PM MDT