New Jersey (NBC)(01/31/20)— The body of a 25 year old woman last seen in October was discovered on Sunday in a wooded area of Middlesex County, New Jersey, officials said.
Weeks after Stephanie Parze was last seen, authorities had all but concluded that John Ozbilgen, age 29, her ex-boyfriend, was responsible for her disappearance, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni told reporters at a news conference Monday.
Their suspicions were confirmed soon after Ozbilgen was found dead by suicide at his home in Freehold Township, where he left a note admitting his involvement in Parze’s death, Gramiccioni said.
Authorities do not believe anyone else was involved, Gramiccioni said at the news conference, hours after authorities announced that her remains had been discovered Sunday.
“That guilt belongs to John Ozbilgen and John Ozbilgen alone,” he said.
Parze’s father, Ed Parze, thanked law enforcement for going “way beyond the call of duty” and others who provided support and searched for his daughter for nearly three months.
“Stephanie is home,” he said as he fought back tears and as his wife, Sharleen, cried by his side at Monday’s news conference. “She’s coming home at last, right where she belongs. And we have God to thank for that.”
Parze, a nanny, was last seen at her Freehold Township home on Oct. 30. Her parents have said she dropped them off at their home after a night out with family and then drove to her home, about 10 miles away, where she lived alone.
They grew concerned and reported her missing after she did not show up for work on Halloween.
Parze’s family and multiple police agencies searched extensively for her in Monmouth and Middlesex counties and in Staten Island, New York, where Ozbilgen once lived.
Detectives searched Ozbilgen’s home in Freehold Township multiple times, Gramiccioni said. Ozbilgen had been charged in three domestic violence incidents, one of which involved Parze, Gramiccioni said.
Days after Parze disappeared, authorities searched Ozbilgen’s cellphone and said they discovered images depicting acts of sexual violence on children, some as young as 2 years old, NBC New York reported.
Ozbilgen was arrested on Nov. 8 on a child pornography charge. He had been released from jail days before his parents found him dead.
Gramiccioni said Monday that among the items recovered from the home was a note that Ozbilgen left for his parents.
“In the note, Ozbilgen stated that he had had enough and that he could not do life in prison,” Gramiccioni said. “He also admitted that what his parents would hear in the news was true except for charges of child pornography that were filed by our office on November 9.”
The note did not disclose the location of Parze’s remains. Gramiccioni said he told Parze’s parents about the note at the time but did not notify the public because of the investigation.
“We had accumulated a great deal of evidence to indicate that he was responsible for her killing,” Gramiccioni said.
He declined to detail the other evidence but said that authorities “had concluded and confirmed” that Ozbilgen was responsible for Parze’s death before the note was found.
Ozbilgen was never charged in Parze’s death.
Two teenagers found Parze’s body Sunday afternoon along U.S. Route 9 in Old Bridge, New Jersey, Acting Middlesex County Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet said Monday.
The location is near an area where police and others had previously searched, officials said.
An autopsy Monday morning confirmed Parze’s identity, according to the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office. The cause and manner of death are yet to be determined.
“Of course, all of us hoped and prayed that we would find her alive even against the odds and the evidence in this case,” Gramiccioni said. “But today, we sincerely hope and pray that the Parze family can have some level of closure and lay their daughter to rest in peace.”
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