Freehold ‘lights up the night’ to celebrate the life of Stephanie Parze
FREEHOLD BOROUGH — Several hundred people marked the 26th birthday of Stephanie Parze — a young woman police say was killed by her on-again, off-again boyfriend — with a candlelight vigil and formal announcement of a foundation in her name Wednesday night.
Investigators have said that Parze died at the hands of John Ozbilgen, who took his own life in his parents' home on Nov. 22 after he was arrested on child porn possession charges. He was never charged in the Parze case, but the 29-year-old stockbroker was eyed as a person of interest in the disappearance of the young Freehold Borough woman, who was last seen by loved ones on Oct. 30.
Her body was discovered on Jan. 26 along Route 9 in Old Bridge by two teenage boys on their way to work. Prosecutors then said they believe Ozbilgen alone was responsible for Parze's death.
Holding candles on a windy night, supporters of the Parze family walked along Main Street from the Borough Hall to Hall of Records during the Light Up The Night for Stephanie Walk.
Parze's father, Edward, said he was happy about to see the friends and family who had helped support Stephanie's loved ones during the search. He called them "Stephanie's Angels."
"They got the first job done to find her," Edward Parze said. "Now we're going to start the second job, which is to keep her legacy going and hopefully help a lot of men and women who are in the same situation as Stephanie was."
Edward Parze previously told Townsquare Media News "I didn't like (Ozbilgen) the first day I met him. Ozbilgen was accused in September of smacking a woman — identified by some news reports as Stephanie – and hurting her thumb and nail. Another ex of his who was quoted in an Asbury Park Press story said she also filed charges against him in June after he dragged her by her hair, but she later dropped the case because she couldn’t make court appearances.
The family Wednesday announced the formation of the Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation, dedicated to help bring awareness to domestic violence and missing persons. The foundation is still in the planning stages, but the goal is to create a variety of different avenues to make help available.
An attendee of the walk who identified himself as Jay said he helped with the searches after seeing one of the many fliers that were distributed after Stephanie Parze went missing.
"I said to myself, 'I have to be a part of this,' and I went on one search and I could not go on any others," Jay said. He sees the foundation as something good coming from tragedy.
Another attendee, Tracy, said she met the Parze family at its family party a year ago, and remembered Stephanie for her big heart.
"She was like a godsend to everyone. She was always there to help. Just her spirit alone was amazing," Tracy said.
"Now Stephanie is an angel," Tracy's daughter, Savannah, said.
"Stephanie was the embodiment of everything the Parze family stood for," which is why you have everyone out here supporting them," childhood friend Daniel said. "I know Mr. Parze, Mrs. Parze are very caring people, and they are people who have such a big heart that brings everyone together"
Edward Parze said Stephanie would have been embarrassed by the sea of people wearing purple, her favorite color, in her honor.
"But she knows how we are. Our family does everything big. We don't do anything small. She would be looking at me like 'dad you did it again. I don't know why but you did it again.' She'd probably be very embarrassed but very appreciative. She'd definitely be thankful for all the people who came out," Edward Parze said.