On Wednesday, a ruling brought renewed attention to the controversial investigation surrounding the 2011 death of Ellen Greenberg, a Philadelphia teacher found dead with 20 stab wounds in her apartment. Despite condemning the “deeply flawed” investigative procedures, an appellate panel determined that Greenberg’s parents did not have standing to compel a change in the official cause of death from “suicide” to “homicide” or “undetermined” in a civil lawsuit.
Back in January 2011, Greenberg, aged 27, was found dead in her Philadelphia apartment, a case that has been surrounded by contentious determinations and alleged procedural failures from the outset. The initial ruling by Dr. Marlon Osbourne, a pathologist involved in the case, labelled the death as a homicide. However, after an undisclosed meeting between police, prosecutors, and pathologists, the cause of death was later revised to suicide.
In the recent 32-page decision, Commonwealth Judge Ellen Ceisler emphasized serious concerns with the investigation, including the cleanup of the crime scene before police arrived with a search warrant and inconsistent statements from witnesses. Ceisler noted the persistence of Greenberg’s parents in seeking justice for their daughter over the last 12 years, acknowledging that current evidence could support conclusions differing from the official suicide ruling.
The building’s property manager and a cleaning service were reportedly involved in the initial cleanup, acting on advice from a Philadelphia Police Department representative. However, it appears that no interviews were conducted with these parties during the investigation. Furthermore, Ellen’s personal belongings were removed from her apartment by her fiance’s uncle, which were reported to include her purse, three laptops, and two cellphones. A video of the crime scene, supposedly taken by the property manager before the cleanup and handed over to the police, remains unaccounted for.
Joe Podraza, the attorney representing Greenberg’s parents, criticized the judicial panel’s majority opinion, arguing it essentially provides a “roadmap” for evading accountability for murder. The family plans to appeal this decision to the state’s Supreme Court, urging a deeper investigation into the potential for murder, and they are pursuing a separate civil lawsuit alleging a cover-up of evidence surrounding Ellen’s death.
Meanwhile, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office is spearheading an external review of the case. The city of Philadelphia expressed sympathy for the Greenbergs, urging them to present any new evidence to Chester County investigators who have the authority to reopen the case. Dr. Osbourne, now based in Florida, remained unreachable for comment.