More than a decade after her death, the city of Philadelphia stands firm in its belief that 27-year-old Ellen Rae Greenberg died by suicide. Greenberg’s parents, however, remain convinced that their daughter was murdered. Now they’re hoping a new court opinion will allow the case to head to trial.
“Finally, somewhere in the criminal justice system of Philadelphia and in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there was a crack and we started to get something,” Greenberg’s father, Josh Greenberg, told NBC10.
On January 26, 2011, Greenberg, who was a teacher at Juniata Park Academy for four years, was found dead by her fiancé inside a unit at the Venice Loft Condominiums along the 4600 block of Flat Rock Road in the city’s Manayunk neighborhood.
An autopsy the next day revealed Greenberg had suffered 20 stab wounds to her chest, abdomen, head and neck. A knife was also found embedded 10 centimeters into her chest. Philadelphia’s then medical examiner, Dr. Marlon Osbourne, ruled Greenberg’s death a homicide.
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On February 28, 2011, however, the Philadelphia Police Department declared that her death had been ruled a suicide. Then, on April 4, 2011, Dr. Osbourne formally amended the manner of death on Greenberg’s death certificate from homicide to suicide.
Greenberg’s parents maintained their belief that their daughter was murdered however and pushed for the city to change the manner of death so that the case could be reopened, resulting in a legal battle that continued for more than a decade.
“According to the trial court, a trial is needed because there are factual disputes which the court believes if are resolved in the Greenberg’s favor, has to require the death certificate to be changed from suicide to something else,” Joe Podraza, the family’s attorney, told NBC10.
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In late 2021, Podraza submitted new evidence to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office that the family believed proved Greenberg was murdered.
“The Greenbergs have presented evidence that according to the court, a jury or the court itself, could determine is sufficient to question the information that Dr. Osborne was given when Dr. Osbourne changed the death certificate from homicide to suicide,” Podraza said.
“Since the current death certificate reflecting that Greenberg committed suicide would present a nearly insurmountable hurdle for the Plaintiffs in bringing a wrongful death action, it is not unreasonable, unjust or an abuse of discretion for the Court to make a declaratory finding that Dr. Osbourne may have erroneously determined Greenberg’s manner of death or abused his discretion by not even considering whether it was appropriate to amend her death certificate under the unique circumstances of this case,” the Court wrote.
The case remains up on appeal however after the city attempted to block it from heading to trial. Podraza told NBC10 the Greenberg family can only go to trial if they win the pending appeal against the city.
“Let’s find who the killer or killers are of Ellen and I think that the court has given us and opened that door to allow us to convince the court to go down that road,” Podraza said.
In a statement to NBC10, a city spokesperson said the judge’s decision, “merely solidifies the City's position that Ms. Greenberg's parents have no basis for their lawsuit to force the City Medical Examiner to change his professional opinion as to how Ms. Greenberg died. The City intends to continue pursuing its appeal.”
NBC10 also reached out to Dr. Osbourne for comment. We have not yet heard back from him.