⚫ A proposal aims to create a domestic violence offender registry for the public

⚫ A grieving father says such a registry could have saved his daughter

⚫ Critics suggest the bill creates the potential for unintended consequences

A proposed law named after a woman who authorities say was killed by her ex-boyfriend aims to give potential victims a heads-up about lurking predators.

The Senate Judiciary Committee originally planned to only discuss the legislative measure on Thursday, but instead decided to vote it through after a lengthy discussion.

Under the bill, New Jersey would have to establish a publicly-accessible database of individuals with a history of domestic violence: those who've been convicted of a DV offense, or have had a final DV restraining order issued against them, or have violated a restraining order related to domestic violence.

Similar to the sex offender registry, the public listing would include the offender's name and photo, along with the reason for the listing.

"Domestic violence is the single greatest predictor of future violent crime among men," said Courtney Gilmartin, with NJ Protective Moms.

Domestic abusers can be extremely manipulative and put their victims in a seemingly inescapable situation, Gilmartin said. With a registry, she said, individuals can see one's history "in black and white," ideally before entering a relationship in the first place.

"We need to act now to save lives," Gilmartin told the committee.

A database of these offenders already exists in New Jersey, but currently it can only be accessed by law enforcement and gun shop owners.

In memory of Stephanie Parze

The bill is named after Stephanie Parze, of Freehold. At 25 years old, Parze had been missing for more than 80 days before her body was found off Route 9 in Old Bridge in January 2020.

About two weeks after Parze was last seen on Oct. 30, 2019, it was revealed that her on again-off again boyfriend, John Ozbilgen, had been charged twice that year with beating a woman.

Stephanie Parze
Stephanie Parze (GoFundMe)

Once her body was found, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said it was Ozbilgen who was responsible for her death.

Ozbilgen had taken his own life months prior at the age of 29, days after being released from jail on a child pornography charge.

It was revealed by authorities that Ozbilgen left behind two suicide notes. In one of the notes, Ozbilgen told his family that "most of the stuff" they'd hear about him is true, except for the child porn accusation.

“I dug myself in a deep hole, this is the only choice. I love you guys,” he wrote.

An attorney for Ozbilgen’s parents released a statement denying the prosecutor’s charges that their son was responsible for Stephanie’s death, and blamed his suicide on the stress of the investigation.

"We don't truly know what happened to Stephanie, but what we do know is John never said that he hurt Stephanie to us or in the note he left us,” Hakan and Cynthia Ozbilgen said in their written statement.

John Ozbilgen and Stephanie Parze in a photo she shared on Facebook in August 2019
John Ozbilgen and Stephanie Parze in a photo she shared on Facebook in August 2019

Speaking in favor of the Stephanie's Law proposal, Stephanie's father Ed said such a list can protect countless potential victims from becoming a statistic.

"I believe with everything in me, if Stephanie could have seen ... what John had done in the past, that she would still be here today," Ed Parze said.

Before voting to advance the measure, committee members heard from individuals who are concerned about "unintended consequences" for people who are listed on the registry.

With past reporting by Sergio Bichao

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