Ellen Greenberg Was Stabbed 20 Times In The Back And Chest — But Police Ruled Her Death A Suicide

Published December 22, 2023

Ever since the Philadelphia teacher was found dead in her apartment on January 26, 2011, her family has been convinced that she was murdered.

Ellen Greenberg

Greenberg FamilyEllen Greenberg, 27, was discovered stabbed to death in the apartment she shared with her fiancé in 2011.

On Jan, 26, 2011, Ellen Greenberg was found dead in her Philadelphia apartment with 20 stab wounds. Despite this, investigators determined that the 27-year-old teacher had died by suicide.

Or did she?

In the years since, Greenberg’s family has fought to have her cause of death changed. Not only had Greenberg been stabbed 20 times in the chest, back, and neck, but some of her wounds were absent of blood — suggesting that they’d been inflicted after her heart had already stopped beating.

What’s more, Greenberg had seemed like her normally bubbly self to those who knew her, and her family doesn’t believe that she spent her last hours alive acting like someone who planned to take their own life.

So what exactly happened to Ellen Greenberg on that January day?

An Elementary Teacher is Found Dead

On Jan. 26, 2011, a snowstorm struck the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ellen Greenberg, a 27-year-old elementary school teacher, headed home early because of the weather. She stopped for gas around 1:30 p.m., then returned to the apartment she shared with her fiance, Samuel Goldberg.

Ellen Greenberg And Samuel Goldberg

Greenberg FamilyEllen Greenberg was found dead on the kitchen floor of her apartment by her live-in fiancé, Sam Goldberg.

Goldberg went to the gym around 4:45 p.m. that afternoon but was shocked to find their apartment door locked and latched from the inside when he returned. Frustrated at being locked out, Goldberg tried to get in touch with Greenberg. Becoming increasingly irate, he texted her nine times with messages like: “Hello,” “open the door,” and “you better have an excuse.”

Because building security refused to open the door for him, according to CBS News, Goldberg forced it open. Stepping inside, he immediately saw Greenberg’s lifeless body slumped against a cabinet in the kitchen with a 10-inch knife sticking out of her chest.

She had been stabbed 20 times.

Goldberg called 911 but it was far too late. Ellen Greenberg was dead. The investigation into her cause of death, however, was just beginning.

What Happened To Ellen Greenberg?

Questions about Ellen Greenberg’s death emerged from the very start. Investigators initially treated her death as a suicide, then a homicide, before eventually settling back on suicide.

“I was in so much shock,” Greenberg’s mother Sandra, told the Philadelphia Inquirer of the suicide determination.

As PEOPLE reports, all signs suggested that Greenberg had been alone when she died. Investigators found only Greenberg’s DNA on the knife and on her clothes. She had no defensive wounds. Nothing was missing from the apartment, and building security footage didn’t turn up anything suspicious. What’s more, the sixth-floor apartment had been locked from the inside. It had a balcony, but there were no footprints in the fresh layer of snow.

Investigators also found that Greenberg had started seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety about her career. She had been prescribed Klonopin and Ambien, both of which could cause suicidal ideations.

But Greenberg’s family is adamant that that’s not what happened.

Ellen Greenberg Engagement Photo

FacebookEllen Greenberg, a Pennsylvania schoolteacher, was engaged to Sam Goldberg and was planning their upcoming wedding.

“She was brutally murdered, stabbed once, twice, 20 times,” Sandra Greenberg told The Independent. “That’s rage. She did not do that to herself.”

Greenberg’s family point to several facts. Greenberg had not expressed thoughts of self-harm to anyone close to her and she had not left a suicide note. In her final hours alive, she acted like someone with a future, completing tasks like filling up her gas tank and making a fruit salad.

Disturbingly, one of her wounds also seems to have been inflicted after her heart stopped beating. According to CBS News, there was no blood in one of her neck wounds suggesting it happened after she was already dead.

“There is no blood there, meaning she was dead at the time that wound was administered,” Greenberg family attorney Joe Podraza explained. “Even the city’s person said I would believe this is a post-mortem or after she was dead stab wound… And that’s not even the last wound we know for sure because the knife was found in her chest.”

Podraza added: “To say this is a suicide is to say that Ellen stabbed herself twice after she was already dead. Doesn’t even make any sense.”

Greenberg also had eleven bruises on her right arm, abdomen, and right leg, all at different stages of healing. Such bruising could be indicative that she had been physically abused in the days leading up to her death.

As Dr. Joshua Greenberg, Greenberg’s father, remarked to Fox News: “That’s what I think the whole issue of this story. Somebody didn’t want Ellen’s abuse to get out there… and that’s why she’s dead.”

That said, Ellen Greenberg had denied that any abuse took place to her psychiatrist. She seemed happy in her relationship.

Ellen Greenberg’s Parents Fight To Change The Suicide Ruling

To this day, Ellen Greenberg’s parents have continued to fight to change her cause of death. They believe the police bungled the investigation by cleaning up the crime scene too quickly and that investigators ignored clues like the lack of blood in Greenberg’s stab wounds.

“Our daughter did not commit suicide — we know that. She was murdered,” Joshua argued. “They [the courts] have blatantly said the investigation was faulty on the part of the police, on the part of the medical examiner, on the part of the district attorney.”

The Greenbergs want to get the manner of their daughter’s death changed from suicide to either homicide or undetermined. However, in September 2023, a Pennsylvania court ruled that the family cannot sue the city of Philadelphia over the investigation into her death, even though the court agreed that the investigation was seriously flawed.

Ellen Greenberg Parents

FacebookEllen Greenberg’s parents, Sandy and Joshua Greenberg, believe their daughter’s death was a homicide, not a suicide.

The Greenberg family’s quest for justice continues as they seek answers to the unresolved questions surrounding their daughter’s case. As CBS News reports, they’ve sued to get the surveillance video from Greenberg and Goldberg’s apartment released, and they’re suing the medical examiner on the grounds that they covered up a homicide.

“There are clearly reasons why agencies don’t want us to get deeper into this case,” the family attorney, Podraza stated. “This is clearly a murder and should be investigated as such.”

Indeed, the question remains — if Ellen Greenberg didn’t die by suicide then who killed her? Some suspicion has naturally fallen on her fiance, Sam Goldberg, who was the first at the scene.

Jennifer Coffindaffer, a former FBI agent, is skeptical of Goldberg’s description of his actions that night. “He said he went down to the gym, came up later to their apartment to open the door and it wasn’t open, it was locked, so he busted it in, only if you look at the pictures, there’s not enough damage for somebody to bust in the door,” she said.

But Sam Goldberg has never been arrested or charged in connection with Ellen Greenberg’s death. He has since gotten married and lives in New York with his wife and their two children.


After reading about the strange suicide of Ellen Greenberg, discover the tragic story of Brandi Worley, the mother who stabbed her two children to death because her husband asked for a divorce. Or, see why some think that 18-year-old Tiffany Valiante’s suicide by train was actually murder.

Rivy Lyon
True crime expert Rivy Lyon holds a Bachelor's degree in criminology, psychology, and sociology. A former private investigator, she has also worked with CrimeStoppers, the Innocence Project, and disaster response agencies across the U.S. She transitioned into investigative journalism in 2020, focusing primarily on unsolved homicides and missing persons.
Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.