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An appellate court panel upheld a ruling that a Philadelphia teacher found dead in 2011 with 20 stab wounds had killed herself, but slammed police’s investigation as “deeply flawed,” according to court documents.
The family of Ellen Greenberg, 27, have fought for more than a decade to overturn the city’s ruling over the teacher’s death, whose corpse was riddled with stab wounds, including 10 to the back of the head and neck.
Greenberg’s family hired a team of experts in the aftermath of her death who pointed out that a knife in her apartment was overturned, possibly suggesting that she had been involved in a struggle, and a gash on the back of her head may have rendered her unconscious and unable to defend herself.
Her family has also questioned why she filled up her gas tank before coming home and didn’t leave a note indicating that she planned to take her own life.
An appellate panel ruled Wednesday that Greenberg’s parents, Joshua and Sandra, lacked the standing for a civil suit, but the judges criticized the city police, prosecutors, the medical examiner’s office and pathologists Marlon Osbourne and Sam Gulino for blunders made in their investigation, Fox News reports.
“The facts surrounding this matter are extremely disturbing and the parents’ tireless efforts over the past 12 years to learn exactly what happened to their daughter on the evening of January 26, 2011, warrant our sincere sympathy,” Judge Ellen Ceisler wrote.
“The experts they enlisted have all raised serious factual questions about Dr. Osbourne’s and Dr. [Sam] Gulino’s conclusions, and even the [medical examiner’s office] now concedes that there ‘is no dispute that evidence in the record could support other conclusions about the manner of death.’”
Ceisler slammed Osburne in particular over his initial conclusion that Greenberg’s death was a homicide, which came after the crime scene had been cleaned up before police could arrive.
The panel added that there was no record of officers interviewing the company that cleaned up the crime scene, the building manager or the police department representative who told the manager to hire a clean-up crew.
Joe Podraza, the family’s attorney, added that the building manager had taken video of the crime scene prior to the clean-up and gave it to police, but the video is unaccounted for.
He previously claimed that the evidence showed that at least two of the 20 stab wounds were inflicted after Greenberg’s heart had already stopped beating.
The attorney slammed the appellate court’s ruling as a failure to find justice for a murder victim
“The majority opinion is a road map on how to commit murder and to not be held accountable,” Podraza Told Fox.
“That’s the most astounding aspect of the opinion: You have, as I read it, three judges saying this young woman was murdered, the investigation is grossly flawed and embarrassing, there is a murderer or murderers out there, but our hands are tied and nobody can do anything except the government officials, and you’re therefore subject to their whims.”
A spokesperson for the city said officials are sympathetic to Greenberg’s family but pleased with the court’s decision.
Greenberg’s parents plan to appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.
Greenberg’s death is also being reviewed by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, with the family pursuing a separate civil lawsuit alleging a cover-up over her death.