NEW YORK, (NBC 4) – Hundreds of people turned out Saturday morning to search for a New Jersey woman who has been missing since October.
Stephanie Parze vanished after dropping her parents off at their house following a family night out on Halloween Eve. She hasn’t been seen since, though searches have led authorities across multiple states and counties.
John Ozbilgen apparently killed himself in his Freehold Township home overnight Thursday into Friday, the sources said, days after Monmouth County prosecutors classified him as a person of interest in the disappearance of Stephanie Parze.
Ozbilgen died just days after he was ordered released from jail in connection with an unrelated child pornography case. It was the day of that hearing, when the judge ordered him released, that prosecutors for the first time called him a person of interest in the case of Parze, who had dated him for months.
During their relationship, Parze accused Ozbilgen of abuse, sources have previously told News 4. He was arrested on the child porn charge Nov. 8, but the judge ruled Tuesday the single charge was not enough to detain until trial.
Ozbilgen’s attorney, Robert Honecker, told News 4 Friday that the man’s family was emotionally distraught and heartbroken. He says he met with Ozbilgen Thursday night at his law office and that the man “adamantly denied having anything to do” with the child pornography charge and “strongly mantained his innocence.” Honecker, who declined to say whether Ozbilgen had left a note, said the two did not talk about Stephanie Parze.
Parze, 25, vanished without a trace after joining her family for a night out in New Brunswick on Oct. 30, parents Sharlene and Ed previously told News 4. She kissed her mother goodbye after dropping them off at their place that night and headed for her home about 10 miles away, where she lives alone with her dog. She hasn’t been heard from since that night.
The search for the missing woman has taken investigators from the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office to Long Pond Park in Staten Island, only a few miles from where Ozbilgen used to live. Amid that search, the abuse accusations resurfaced.
A lawyer for the Parze family, Rick Incremona, tells News 4 police were still searching Ozbilgen’s home Friday and family cellphone records.