Missing NJ woman’s family still hopeful; hanged ex’s parents ‘distraught’
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Volunteers on Saturday will be resuming the search for any sign of a missing 25-year-old woman a day after her ex-boyfriend, a man identified as a person of interest in her disappearance, was found hanged in a suicide.
Stephanie Parze went missing on Oct. 30 after a after a night out with family members in New Brunswick. Parze's car, phone, purse, and the shoes that she wore that night were left at her late grandmother's home, where she lived with pets.
Volunteers on Saturday morning gathered at the Freehold Independent Firehouse on Stillwells Corner Road to board buses.
Her father, Edward Parze, did not publicly reveal the location where the third search he has organized will take place. The family warned volunteers of a five-hour commitment and asked them to wear clothing and footwear that "you wouldn't mind getting messy" because of possible wet and muddy areas.
Parze said his searches are not meant as disrespect to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, which is leading the investigation into his daughter's disappearance. Investigators have conducted searches of Long Pond Park, a 91-acre Staten Island park.
"We're just trying to check off some boxes and putting pieces together," Edward Parze told New Jersey 101.5.
A second search on Saturday was organized by retired NYPD officer Frank Schaefer in Staten Island. That search will involve about 150 volunteers. They are searching a different area of Long Pond Park.
"They're going to deal with the outlying areas that they didn't hit. Whatever they can cover with the amount of people they have," Parze said.
John Ozbilgen 29, hanged himself at his parents' home. His body was found Friday morning, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. He had been released from custody on Tuesday after being arrested on a charge of possession of images of child pornography, which investigators said they found on his phone during their search for Stephanie Parze. Prosecutors at Ozbilgen's detention hearing said they found an additional 10 images on his phone.
Ozbilgen family attorney and former Monmouth County Prosecutor Robert Honecker told New Jersey 101.5 that John's parents are "emotionally distraught and heartbroken" over their son's death.
Honecker said he met with the family on Thursday night to strategize their case against the child porn charge, an allegation Honecker said John "strongly denied." Ozbilgen said he "did not engage in that kind of activity" and was concerned about how the images got onto his phone. Honecker said that they were considering hiring their own expert to examine his phone.
"He was thankful we were defending him," Honecker said.
Honecker had no comment about his client being a person of interest in the Stephanie Parze case and said he was only defending him against the child pornography images, pointing out that no one had been charged in the Parze case.
Edward Parze would not comment on Ozbilgen's death.
"Any loss of a life is the same. I have to stay focused on this. I can't be dealing with that right now," Parze said.
Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Charles Webster said the missing person case is still an active.
"We are actively seeking Stephanie’s whereabouts. Friday morning’s incident does not affect our efforts to locate Stephanie," Webster said.
Prosecutors asked anyone with information about either case to call 800-533-7443.
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