Slain victim’s foundation aims to help NJ families find peace after horror
⚫ Stephanie Parze's body was found 87 days after she went missing
⚫ Her family created a foundation to help victims of domestic abuse
⚫ They donated a search & cadaver K9 to State Police
In October 2019 a parent's worst nightmare became reality for Edward Parze of Freehold Township.
HIs 25-year-old daughter Stephanie had gone out for a night of pre-Halloween fun with her family but never returned to her late grandmother's home where she had been living.
In addition to searches by law enforcement, her family organized several searches in Monmouth County parks while investigators searched Staten Island, where ex-boyfriend John Ozbilgen had lived before moving to Freehold.
Parze's body was found on Jan. 27, 2020, along Route 9 near the Grand Marquis in Old Bridge by two venue employees walking to work.
A few months before the gruesome discovery, Ozbilgen hanged himself while facing charges of child pornography as his violent past with both Parze and another woman came to light.
'We’re never going to let her die'
Despite being devastated at the death of his daughter, Edward Parze and his family created the Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation to keep her memory alive by helping victims of domestic violence and support for missing person cases.
“We’re never going to let her die. That’s the purpose of the foundation. Through the foundation she’s going to live," Edward Parze told New Jersey 101.5 in a February 2020 interview. She’s not going to die in vain. I believe she’s going to be helping more people than you can imagine.”
'Her legacy is going to live on'
That prediction came true with a donation by the foundation of a portable dental X-ray machine to the New Jersey State Police Forensic Anthropology Unit and "Sparze" a German Shepherd search & cadaver K9 named after Stephanie Parze to the NJSP Special Operations Unit.
"Today's a big day for her foundation. The dog's name is named after her, 'S' for Stephanie and Parze. Her legacy is going to live on. This dog is going to be able to find people and bring closure to these families. And that's what we want. We don't want anybody to suffer any longer than they have to," Parze told New Jersey 101.5.
'The unknown is what kills you'
The portable X-ray machine will also speed up the process by helping to identify a body at the scene by downloading the dental records of missing persons from across the county. X-rays can also be taken of bones for analysis. Parze said this will go towards bringing closure to their families, even when it's not good news.
"The unknown is what kills you. The unknown works on your mental existence. It just it just drives you crazy. You're just sitting there wondering every day what's going on and where the person is, what kind of weather they're laying out in. It is horrifying," Ed Parze said. "Even though it's painful, it still gives them that peace of mind that they know where that person is now. They can they can mourn and do what they have to do at that point with that person home. That's a big thing," Ed Parze said.
'Stephanie is again watching over us'
The Parze Foundation began its fundraising efforts in 2020 with several events that were canceled as COVID-19 and social distance mandates closed down venues.
"We went out a little out of the box and since the restrictions weren't as strict on the outdoor activities we decided to do the Color Butterfly Run. It wound up being a hit. 400 people showed up for that and it was outdoors. We followed the guidelines, kept people spaced out. And since it was the only game in town, everybody came out and had a great time," Parze said.
A Santa Drive is coming up on Dec. 15 and 16 to collect new, unwrapped toys and monetary donations for the foundation. Two events in February for Stephanie Parze's 30th birthday. Ed Parze said that his beloved daughter is very much a part of the foundation.
"Stephanie is again watching over us. She's guiding us in the direction of what to do. And this is a good way to do it. This will last for years, the dog will be here for many years, the machine will be here for many years. And we'll be able to help a lot of people with this," Ed Parze said.
Authorities never got the chance to charge Ozbilgen with Parze's disappearance or death but then-Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said that the only person responsible for Parze's death is Ozbilgen.
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