The body of a 25-year-old New Jersey woman last seen in October was discovered Sunday in a wooded area of Middlesex County, officials said.
Weeks after Stephanie Parez was last seen, authorities had all but concluded that her ex-boyfriend John Ozbilgen, 29, 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 on Nov. 22, where he left a note admitting his involvement in Parze’s death, Gramiccioni said.
Authorities do not believe anyone else was involved Parze’s death, Gramiccioni said at the news conference, hours after authorities announced her remains were discovered Sunday.
“That guilt belongs to John Ozbilgen and John Ozbilgen alone,” Gramiccioni said.
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.
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“Stephanie is home,” he said as he fought back tears and 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 Oct. 30. Her parents had said that 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 after she did not show up for work on Halloween and reported her missing.
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 over the course of the investigation, Gramiccioni said. Ozbilgen had been charged in three domestic violence incidents, one of which involved Parze, Gramiccioni said.
Days after her disappearance, authorities searched Ozbilgen’s cellphone and allegedly discovered images on it depicting acts of sexual violence on children, some as young as 2 years old, NBC New York reported. Ozbilgen was arrested Nov. 8 on a child pornography charge. He had been released from jail days before he was found dead by his parents at their Freehold Township home.
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 Nov. 9.”
The note did not disclose the location of Parze’s remains. Gramiccioni said he told Parze’s parents about the note when it was discovered but did not notify the public about it because of the ongoing investigation.
Ozbilgen was never charged in Parze’s death.
Parze’s body was found Sunday afternoon along U.S. Route 9 in Old Bridge, New Jersey, by two teenagers, Acting Middlesex County Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet said Monday. The location was 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. Her 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.”