A mysterious locked-room death in Manayunk eight years ago still confounds family and forensic experts today

Joshua and Sandra Greenberg were settled in for the evening when the call came from Philadelphia:

“Something terrible has happened to Ellie.”

Their only child, Ellen Greenberg, was dead.

In an instant on that night in 2011, the Greenbergs’ world turned “Weird. Strange. Black,” Sandra said.

Little did they know that it would only get more so.

Ellen Greenberg shows off the engagement ring given to her by her fiance, Sam Goldberg, in 2010.

Ellen Greenberg shows off the engagement ring given to her by her fiance, Sam Goldberg, in 2010.

Ellen, a 27-year-old elementary schoolteacher, had been discovered seated on the kitchen floor inside her locked Manayunk apartment with a serrated knife plunged four inches into her chest.

A strainer filled with blueberries and an orange, appearing freshly sliced, rested on the counter. Two clean knives were in the sink.

And 20 stab wounds, with 10 alone to the back of Ellen’s neck, covered her body.

Police on scene treated Ellen’s death as a suicide. But the next day, the Medical Examiner’s Office determined it was a homicide. Then, after detectives dug up more information, they dug in their feet and the ME’s Office made a rare flip-flop, changing the manner of Ellen’s death to suicide.

The Greenbergs found their emotions whipsawed as Philadelphia officials disagreed about what happened in that corner of the small and otherwise undisturbed kitchen. Josh, 68, a periodontist, and Sandra, 62, a dental hygienist, felt a world away at their home in Harrisburg.

But as they gradually came to learn the extent of their daughter’s injuries and the peculiarities of the scene, they began asking: “What the hell is going on here?”

And so they started a quest that no parent should ever have to undertake: to find out how their daughter died. To that end, they’ve enlisted the help of respected forensic experts, including Pittsburgh forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht and Connecticut forensic scientist Henry Lee.

“It doesn’t add up,” Sandra said. “… We just want to know the truth.”

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