Crime Junkie podcast treated their fans to a dramatic 911 call at the start of this week’s episode. It looks at the death of Ellen Greenberg. The 911 call comes from her fiancé, who says he’s got in their apartment and discovered her surrounded by blood.
It’s highly emotional. When listening to it, it is easy to get distracted and ask “is this guy acting?”. To strip away that distraction, I’ve transcribed the call and had a look at the words he’s chosen to use.
Sam: Help.. I-I need a, I need a emer..(inaudible) I just, I just walked through my apart… my fiancé’s on the floor with blood everywhere
Operator: What is the address?
S: 46-01 Flat Rock Road, please come help now
S: Flat Rock Road
O: Is that house or apartment?
S: Oh no.. Oh no… it’s an apartment. Please hurry, please,
O: Where is she bleeding from?
S: I don’t know, I can’t tell she’s….
O: Sir you have to calm down so you can get you some help
S: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. She-I don’t know I- I’m looking at her right now … she-I don’t-I can’t see anything , she doesn’t, there’s nothing broken she’s blee- Ellie!
O: You don’t know where she’s bleeding from ?
S: Ellie… its, I think her head, I think she hit her head.. I think. (inaudible) everywhere.. it’s everywhere
O: Do you know what happened?
S: She may have slipped, there’s blood on the - on the table - her face is a little purple
O: Ok hold on for rescue
(Call is transferred)
O: What’s the address?
S: 46-01 Flat Rock Road… please hurry
O: 46-01 Flat Rock?
O: What’s wrong?
S: My-my-I just- my-I went downstairs to go work out I came back up the door is latched, my fiancé’s inside she wasn’t.. she wasn’t answering and so after about half hour I decided to break it down, I see her now just on the floor with blood, she’s not.. she’s not responding
O: OK, is she breathing?
O: Look at her chest
S: I don’t think she i-I really don’t think she is
O: Look at her chest, is she flat on her back?
S: She’s on her back but there’s…
O: Look at her chest and tell me if it’s going up and down, up and down
S: I don’t see her moving
O: OK do you know how to do CPR?
S: I don’t
O: I’m gonna tell you what to do ok, I want you to keep her…
S: Oh god…
S: Yeah, hi ok
O: We’re gonna do CPR with me over the phone so
S: I..I have to right?
O: OK get her flat on her back, bare her chest…rip her shirt off - kneel down by her side
S: Oh my god… Ellie please…
O: You can’t freak out sir
S: I’m tryin no-I’m trying not to - I’m try… her shirt won’t come off it’s a zipper. Oh my god.. she stabbed herself
S: She fell on a knife… oh no… her knife’s sticking out…
O: Her what?
S: There’s a knife sticking out of her heart
O: She’s stabbed herself?
S: I g-I guess so I don’t know whether she’s fell on it, I don’t know.
O: OK well don’t touch it
S: OK so I just I just let her lie here now? I mean what do I do?
O: If the knife is in her chest it’s gonna be pretty hard for you to do CPR at this time
S: Oh no, oh my goodness ok. Is someone coming here?
O: Yes they are - 46-01 Flatrock right?
O: OK someone’s on their way, and the knife is still inside?
S: Is the what?
O: The knife is still inside of her?
S: Yeah I didn’t take it out
O: In her chest or what area?
S: Chest, it-it looks like .. it looks like it’s right in her heart
O: OK .. someone’s on their way
S: Oh my god, oh my god
O: How old is she
S: She’s 27
O: And there’s no sign of life at all?
S: No, No No… please don’t be … what?
O: Pinch under her arm or somewhere she responds to pain
S: She’s… Ellie …she not-not her arm her hands are still warm I don’t know if that means but there’s blood eve.. I mean…
O: The knife is still inside of her can you see how far it went in
S: It.. It looks pretty deep
S: It looks…it’s a long knife
O: Don’t touch anything ok
S: I’m not touching anything this is.. re-I can’t believe this uh
O: It was just you there with her?
S: We.. yeah.. we’re the only ones here
O: She ran in the door you say and latched it shut
S: No no… I I I I went downstairs to work-out and when I came back up, the door was latched like it wasn’t like you know I wasn’t like you know it was like locked from the inside and I’m yelling …. and I saw (crosstalk)
O: Was your house broken into?
S: No no no no no
O: No sign of a break-in?
S: No, no sign of a break in at all - I mean, there will be when you get here because I had to break the latch but —- to get in
O: 46-01 Flat Rock, this is a house right
S: It’s an apartment
S: Oh my god, oh my god, alright - thank you - bye
Let’s break it down
When I’m looking at matters of life or death, I like to look at what reassures me that things as above board, and what doesn’t
Sam mentions several times that he is seeking help, and he is looking for that help to arrive quickly. It’s observed that in many calls where the caller already knows that the person in trouble is dead, there is a lack of urgency.
Sam never says that his fiancé is dead or that he fears she is dead, he never refers to her in the past tense, which would imply he knew she was already gone. When he is asked who is in the apartment his answer contains “we” which is another reassuring indicator.
When looking to see if someone is being truthful or not, we look at how direct their answers are. Are their answers a very straight and direct line to facts, or do they evade answering directly? Do they use needless language which could be added to over-play the severity of the situation or downplay another aspect?
Sam can give very direct answers. When asked his address, her age, has there been a break-in and who is in the apartment he is very to the point.
When asked most questions about the condition of his fiancé, especially if he is asked to observe or intervene, he is much more vague and more likely to not answer the question and get emotional instead.
Have a look back over the transcript. You can see that when asked for basic facts, he delivers first time. When asked about the state of his fiancé, he wavers.
There are times when Sam is very keen to get across the fact he does not know what happened. He says he doesn’t know where she is bleeding from. He says she may have slipped.
At one point he is so keen to say he doens’t know what has happened he says “I think” twice in once answer: “I think she hit her head.. I think”
This is very different to when he claims to have discovered the knife. Here he says what happened, no “I think” involved. He first says, “Oh my god.. she stabbed herself” then when asked “where?” he says something entirely different, “she fell on a knife”.
This entire knife “discovery” sequence is very odd. Not only does he say two different contradictory things that happened (“she stabbed herself” and “she fell on a knife”) he also says “her knife is sticking out”. What made him use the pronoun “her”? “There’s a knife sticking out” or “a knife is sticking out” would be expected here. What makes it “her” knife?
The process of him “finding” the knife is odd too. When analysing words, I usually ignore logical issues unless the words speak clearly. They do here. This is an extract of what is said with my notes:
O: Is she flat on her back?
S: She’s on her back but there’s… (there’s what?)
O: Look at her chest and tell me if it’s going up and down
S: I don’t see her moving (by now he has confirmed she is on her back, he is looking at her chest and can’t see it moving)
O: We’re gonna do CPR with me over the phone .. get her flat on her back, bare her chest…rip her shirt off - kneel down by her side
S: Her shirt won’t come off it’s a zipper.(He must be looking at the front of her body to know this)
S: Oh my god.. she stabbed herself (now he notices?)
S: She fell on a knife… oh no… her knife’s sticking out… (he confirmed she’s on her back, he’s observing her chest but doesn’t notice the knife until after he tries to take off her top?)
As I’ve said, it is helpful when analysing words to look at them written with any emotion stripped out. Here, there are two points where the caller gets so emotional the operators have to ask him to calm down. Both of these follow questions about her condition, where is she bleeding from and is she breathing? These questions prompt emotion for sure, is that emotion driven by the severity of what happens or is it panic of trying to get a correct answer together?
There is one other question that is not given a direct answer. The second operator asks “What’s wrong”. Instead of saying what is wrong (there’s a woman lying on the floor with blood everywhere) he starts by confirming that he wasn’t there when it happened because he was downstairs working out. He reiterates this story again later and mentions he was locked out twice too.
Is it more important for him to say where he was when the incident happened than to say what the situation needing urgent attention is?
There is a recurring theme that comes through these observations. They suggest this was someone who called 911 and had a fixed version of events to tell the dispatchers. As soon as they are asked questions which cause them to deviate from this version of events or have not been covered in preparing this version of events, there is panic and evasion.
The analysis raises too many red flags for me to conclude there is nothing more going on here.
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