The Bizarre Death of Ellen Rae Greenberg


Name: Ellen Rae Greenberg
Age: 27 years old
Location: Manayunk, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Background Information

Ellen Rae Greenberg, nickname Ellie, was born June 23rd, 1983 in New York. She was an only child to parents Joshua and Sandra Greenberg, their relationship was very close.

ellen-dog Greenburg-family-photo






Ellen is described as an extremely kind and nurturing soul. Her family says it was no surprise that she went into a teaching career, as she loved children. Everyone who knew Ellen said she had incredible energy in her. Her students really liked her and said she was a great teacher.

Ellen moved from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia and got her teaching certificate, and started working in an elementary school. While in Philadelphia she met a man named Samuel Goldberg, who was in the TV industry and was a producer for NBC. After being together for 3 years they decided to get engaged.

Ellen was super excited and happy about being engaged, and they were planning to have a big wedding in August 2011.




January 26th, 2011 was a normal morning, while Ellen was on her way to work she spoke to her mum, they had a normal conversation and spoke about taxes as tax season was coming up. This particular day was very snowy outside, as a huge storm had just come in. It was getting worse during the day, which let the school be dismissed earlier for the day.

Ellen helped all the students call their parents to inform them about going home earlier and to ensure they all had a ride home. Then she headed out of the school to go home. On her way home, she stopped at a gas station then continued her way home.

Ellen and Sam were living in the Venice Lofts in Lower West Philadelphia. They were both at home together until around 4:45 pm when Sam left the loft and went to go workout at their complex gym. He stayed at the gym for only approximately 30 minutes and walks back to the apartment but when he arrives he realizes the door is locked, which was unusual because he had only been gone for a short time and Ellen was at home. He had his key so he could unlock it but what was strange was the door was locked with a swing lock from the inside, which was something they used only at night.


When Samuel knocked on the door he got no reply so he decided to text Ellen:


“open the door”

“what r u doin”

“I’m getting pissed”


“you better have an excuse”

“what the f***”


“you have no idea”

There were still no replies so he went down to speak to the security guard, Phil Hanton, at the lobby at their apartment complex. The security told him he couldn’t let him in the apartment because it was against policy and safety reasons. The only way he could get in was the break-in so he went up, with Phil Hanton.

When Sam broke down the door, he was shocked as he found Ellen laying dead in their living room. As you walk into the apartment the kitchen is right there, when Sam looked in he sees Ellen on the floor but she is proper up against the kitchen cabinet (her upper body is leaning back against the cabinet and she is slouched down with her feet splayed out in front of her. In Ellen’s hand was a completely clean white towel.

They immediately called the police, the dispatch told Sam to do chest compressions, and whilst he was doing CPR he noticed there was a knife still lodged inside of her, this is when dispatch told him to stop.

Unfortunately, when police arrived they saw from the scene there was nothing they could do and Ellen was pronounced dead at 6:40 pm.

Before what had happened to Ellen, it seemed as though was about to have some fruit. There was a strainer with blueberries inside that had been washed and she had just sliced some oranges and they were just sitting there open. There also two completely clean knives in the sink.

Right away police treated this as a suicide. After searching the premises, they determined no one had broken in, or any evidence that Ellen had tried to leave at any point. Ellen never had any sort of defensive wounds.

The apartment complex had surveillance cameras at the main entrance but they do not have in the hallway leading up to the apartment. The police interviewed everyone who worked there but no one had noticed or seen anything or anyone strange. Police also interviewed neighbors, who said they never heard any disturbance apart from when Sam was banging on the door to get in.

There were no signs on Ellen’s body that she had tried to fight someone off and there was no blood found outside of the kitchen.  Police tested the knife which only had Ellen’s DNA on it.


The apartment was on the sixth floor, there was no indication anyone had climbed up or had broken in that way. There were no footprints in the snow. This led police to determine this was a suicide.


The next day, the medical examiner began the autopsy. There were 8 stab wounds to Ellen Greenberg’s chest area, some wounds went in only 0.2cm others including where the knife was still in was 4cm deep. She also had a stab wound to her stomach and a 2.5inch gash on her scalp. She had another 10 stab wounds to the back of her neck, there were 11 bruises on her body that were all over her right arm, her abdomen, and right leg.

Some of the bruises were new however some of them appeared to be a couple of weeks older. They noted that some of these bruises would have come from the physical activity Ellen did at her yoga or pilates class. However, Ellen’s father, Joshua said she never took any pilates classes, he believed these bruises came from an abusive person.

The medical examiner ruled Ellen Rae Greenberg’s death as a homicide.

The police and anyone from the medical examiner’s office never contacted the Greenberg family. Her parents found out that the case was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, from their friends who had seen it on the news.

The Investigation

beth-el-templeEllen’s funeral was held in the Beth El Temple in Harrisburg. 

When the case was ruled a homicide, the Philadelphia Homicide Unit decided to step in to take a look at the case further. They looked at Samuel’s key fob records and track exactly where he went. They also compared the timeline he had given them to the security videos they had. They confirmed that everything Sam had said had matched up.

Whilst checking the security camera recordings they confirmed that no one unauthorized had entered or exited the complex during the time of Ellen’s death.

Only a few days later, on January 29th, 2011, the police announced that even though the medical examiner ruled the death as a homicide, they were looking at it as a suicide and that they were looking into Ellen’s background and mental health history.

While talking to Ellen’s friends and family they found out that a month or two before this happened, there was a big change in Ellen’s demeanor. Her parents claimed she was usually very bubbly, friendly, and warm but lately she was very shut down and very anxious. She always seemed to be worried about something and was extremely unsettled and when they would ask her what exactly was wrong she would just say that she was stressed out about her job.

Police went to interview some of the teachers Ellen worked with, asking them if she had seemed stressed out about the job and everyone had said she didn’t seem anymore stressed out than any other teacher.

The investigators then found out that around this time, Ellen was telling her parents that she wanted to quit her job and she had asked them to move back into their home with them in Harrisburg because she was stressed out and wanted to just come home.

This made her parents concerned so they told her to go and see a psychiatrist, this is when Ellen began to see Dr. Berman for three visits, and the progress they were making seemed good and she seemed happier. In Dr. Berman’s notes, he said Ellen was not suicidal and his diagnosis was she was having an adjustment disorder with anxiety.

Dr. Berman put Ellen on a few different medications for the issues she was experiencing, she was on the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin a common antidepressant called Zoloft, Ambien which is a sleep aid as well as Xanax which is an anti-anxiety drug. These drugs do list suicidal thoughts and behaviors as possible side effects. Only Klonopin and Ambien were found in Ellen’s system at the time of her death.

Detective John McNamee suggested hiring an outside neuropathologist to review a portion of Ellen’s spinal cord to determine if there was damage by any of the wounds to the back of her neck. This was important because if the wounds to the back of her neck damaged the spinal cord to a certain point, Ellen would not have been able to make the final stab into her chest. This was the wound that was determined to have killed her.

The neuropathologist told the police that the spinal cord was hit but was not served. They concluded that this caused Ellen to go numb, this makes the idea of her stabbing herself in other areas more believable.

Due to all the information police had gathered, the medical examiner changed Ellen’s death to suicide. Once again Joshua and Sandra found out through the media.

Ellen’s parents did not believe her death was a suicide so they ended up purchasing her autopsy reports and photos, crime scene photos, and photos from the medical examiner’s report. They sent all of this information to a forensic pathologist named Cyril West.

Cyril West was shocked to find Ellen had so many stab wounds, especially the multiple stab wounds to her neck. After looking over all of the reports and photographs he told Joshua and Sandra he did not understand how this was ruled a suicide. The detectives on this case wouldn’t allow him to have a copy of their files.

The Greenberg’s also hired a private attorney who is a civil rights lawyer, named Larry Krasner. He believes there are substantial questions that remain unanswered in Ellen’s death. In May 2012, he organized a meeting with the Greenberg’s, police, and the representatives from the district attorney’s office to get the investigation reopened. Unfortunately, nothing came from this meeting, as they could not make an agreement.

Sandra and Joshua Greenberg had to file public records requests to get Ellen’s files. The first time they were turned down, but eventually, the police allowed them to look at the files. They were not allowed to make copies of them, take pictures of the files or write anything down.

Tom Brennan is a retired 25-year state police veteran and former chief, who offered to work on the case for free. When looking into the case one thing he argued which one, because there are no defense wounds it does not mean it is then a definite suicide. He also mentioned that there are videos online that show different ways of how to manipulate a latch from the outside to make it seem like it was locked from the inside.

The crime scene photos showed a stream of blood running horizontally down Ellen’s cheek, it was going from her nose down her left cheek to her ear. This was odd because her body was found sitting upwards and was leaning up against the cabinet.

In 2015 a Philadelphia homicide prosecutor named Guy D’Andrea reviewed Ellen’s case file and said he could not find a neuropathology report, so he requested one from the police as well as the medical examiner’s office. They responded by saying it couldn’t be found and they lost it or it doesn’t exist.

He also found out that the medical examiner did not even one on staff at the time of Ellen’s death, there was no request to have someone look at Ellen’s spinal column. This means that there is no answer to the question of did the stab wounds to the back of her neck damaged or severed her spinal cord.

Tom Brennan found out that there was a piece of Ellen’s spinal cord saved at the medical examiner’s office, so he got in contact with a forensic pathologist named Wayne Ross to examine it.

Wayne Ross concluded that one of the stab wounds penetrated Ellen’s cranial cavity and severed the cranial nerves and brain, which would mean she would experience severe pain and she would have been impaired severely or even completely have lost her consciousness at that point. In addition to this finding, he also found signs of strangulation.

Henry Lee also looked at the medical examiner’s files of Ellen Rae Greenberg’s case, he concluded that the number, types of wounds, and bloodstain patterns found are consistent with a homicide scene.

The medical examiner said that there was nothing on Ellen’s phone or computer that was concerning, however, when computer forensic experts looked at her computer they found the search terms of quick suicide, painless suicide, and suicide methods.

The computer forensic experts also looked at Ellen’s text messages and found that she had texted her mum on January 8th saying “I’m starting the med I know you don’t understand but I can’t keep living with feeling this way”. 9 days later Ellen also texted her mum saying “Klonopin helped thank you God” to which Sandra replied “so happy for you” Ellen replied, “me too omg”. The day before Ellen’s death Sandra texted her saying “you need to see a professional” to which Ellen replied, “okay I’m trying just scared a bit for everything”. 

In October 2019, the Greenberg family filed a civil lawsuit against the Philadelphia medical examiner’s office and the first pathologist that conducted the autopsy. The Greenberg’s are hoping for the medical examiner’s office to change Ellen’s death from undetermined to homicide. Additionally, they pointed out that Ellen had two different types of wounds from knives, some were from a smooth knife and the others were from a serrated knife.


In May 2020, more information had come out about Samuel and how he reacted to everything on the day of Ellen’s death. Sam claimed that when he was kicking down the door, Phil Hanton, the security guard was with him, however, Phil says he never left his desk that day and he was not with Sam. Phil also told the police that Sam was wearing boots that day, which was odd because he had gone to the gym.

It was also discovered that Sam had called two numbers before he called 911. He had called his parents and his uncle who is an attorney. They were on their way to the scene before the emergency services even were.

There are also claims that Sam was extremely calm during the 911 call and when he was asked to start CPR he said do I have to and when he realized there was a knife still inside Ellen he said hmm she must have fallen on it.

There was also blood on Ellen’s Ugg boots that day which makes people believe that she was standing when she was first attacked. Additionally, as there was such little blood at the scene, the family believes that maybe someone had tried to clean up before the emergency services and police arrived.

Recently, it had come out that the door was actually not kicked down, in fact, the only damage that was found was a missing screw on the lock and some wood damage to the door where the lock is screwed in. This screw was never found and there were no wood pieces from the door found either.

It was also discovered that Sam’s uncle and cousin returned to the crime scene the day after. They had taken Ellen’s personal laptop, Sam’s laptop, Ellen’s work laptop, and phone before the police received it.

Ellen’s family is currently waiting for the state to hand over the file on Ellen’s death and they are also trying to get their hands on the surveillance footage from the apartment complex.

The family lawyer Joe Podraza has said that there is new evidence that contradicts investigator’s claim about Ellen committing suicide. Investigators said that on Ellen’s laptop there were searches relating to suicide, however, Podraza has said that the hard-drive was examined in the FBI lab in 2011 and no such searches were found.

Joe Podraza has hired his own team of experts to examine the hard-drive, and the results came back saying no searches relating to suicide were not found prior to Ellen’s death.








Photogrammetry has created an image that shows Ellen Greenberg’s 20 stab wounds, the photogrammetry shows the size, depth, and length of the stab wounds. Creator’s have concluded from these images that none of them could have been self-inflicted, in particular the ones on the back of Ellen’s neck.

Resources and Further Information

Please sign the Justice for Ellen Rae Greenberg petition 

Justice for Ellen Rae Greenberg Twitter page

Follow the justice for Ellen Rae Greenberg Facebook page to support Ellen’s family

Kendel Rae covers Ellen’s case with the family and PI

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