The search for a New Jersey woman who vanished last month after a family gathering has once again led investigators to Staten Island, where her former boyfriend used to live.
Law enforcement used bloodhounds this week to search a Staten Island park in hopes of finding clues as to what happened to Stephanie Parze, 25, who vanished from her home in Freehold Township, New Jersey on Oct. 30, ABC News reports. About 200 law enforcement officials searched a thick marshlands area at Long Pond Park, according to the Asbury Park Press.
They've searched in the same area before –– a spot where Parze’s former boyfriend, 29-year-old John Ozbilgen, reportedly took romantic interests, unnamed law enforcement sources told the New York Daily News. The paper also claims that Ozbilgen's phone was traced to those woods for six hours on one of the nights after Parze vanished.
“We are following up on every lead and the investigation has taken our team into Staten Island,” the Office of the Monmouth County Prosecutor said in a statement last week.
Ozbilgen, who used to live in Staten Island, has been called a person of interest in Parze’s disappearance. He was arrested last week at his home in Freehold Township on unrelated child pornography allegations. He has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, and possession of child pornography, according to a statement from prosecutors.
While Parze and Ozbilgen reportedly only dated for a few months, anonymous police sources told NBC New York that Parze called police twice on Ozbilgen to report alleged abuse. The first 911 call came in June, when Parze accused Ozbilgen grabbing her by her face and pulling her hair, an allegation which was later dismissed, according to those sources. Then, in September, five weeks before vanishing, Parze called 911 again to claim that her boyfriend backhanded her in the head and hit her hand, according to NBC New York. In both incidents, the violence allegedly came after Parze tried to end the relationship; police said that Parze feared being attacked in the future. Her Facebook page, which previously indicated she was in a relationship with Ozbilgen, listed her as single at the time of her disappearance.
Ozbilgen’s family declined comment to reporters. It’s not clear if Ozbilgen has an attorney who can speak on his behalf at this time.
Parze vanished the day before Halloween shortly after seeing a psychic show with family members. She had promised to either call or text her parents when she returned home but they never received any message from her, local outlet WABC reports. Parze never made it into work the next day either. Her phone was later found inside her home and her car was in her driveway.
Parze stands at 4'11'' and has brown hair and brown eyes. She weighs about 115 pounds. She was last seen wearing jeans, a burgundy V-neck shirt and burgundy sweater.
Anyone with any information is urged to contact Det. Shawn Murphy of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-431-7160 ext. 7032, or Det. Daniel Valentine of the Freehold Township Police at 732-462-7908.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.