What the suicide notes reveal about the Stephanie Parze homicide case
The man believed to be responsible for the death of a 25-year-old woman whose body was found last month along Route 9 left two separate suicide notes addressed to his family and an ex-girlfriend.
Yet, neither note provided any clue as to how and why John Ozbilgen might have killed Stephanie Parze — or what he had done with the body — leaving Parze’s grieving loved ones to spend months combing two states in a desperate attempt to find her.
Stephanie Parze went missing on Oct. 30 after a night out with family at a show in New Brunswick. Her car, phone, purse and the shoes that she wore that night were left at her home where she lived alone with pets.
Investigators obtained 50 warrants for 10 searches in Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties and Staten Island, searching Ozbilgen's home five times.
In the end, it was two Perth Amboy teenagers, walking from a parking lot to their job at a catering hall in Old Bridge, who discovered Parze’s body.
After the discovery, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni pinned the death on the 29-year-old stockbroker.
"No one else is responsible for her death. That responsibility belongs to John Ozbilgen, and John Ozbilgen alone," Gramiccioni said at a news conference on Jan. 27, a day after Parze’s body was found.
But Ozbilgen’s parents don’t believe that their son was Parze’s killer — and the two suicide notes, copies of which New Jersey 101.5 obtained through a records request, support their belief, they’ve said.
New Jersey 101.5 is revealing copies of the redacted notes because questions remain unanswered in this high-profile homicide and missing person case.
Ozbilgen was never charged with Parze’s disappearance or killing. Prosecutors never got the chance.
On Nov. 22 — days after he had been released from jail on a charge of possession of child porn, which investigators said they had found on his confiscated phone as part of the Parze investigation — Ozbilgen was found hanged in his parents’ garage.
Some time before he ended his life, Ozbilgen wrote two notes — one to his family and the other to a former girlfriend whose name prosecutors redacted from the copies provided to New Jersey 101.5 in order to protect her identity as a witness and victim.
Each note was written on the back of a sheet from a shopping-list pad. In run-on sentences of bubbly handwriting, he briefly tells his parents about how unhappy he has been and tells his ex how he’s missed her. End ends his note to his family with a smiley face and ends his note to his ex with sad face.
The part of the notes that prosecutors homed in on is where he tells his family: “I can’t do life in prison. Most of the stuff you will hear is true, exept (sic) the child porn, I would never do that.”
The rest of the note discusses plans for his funeral and how much he loved his ex.
“I dug myself in a deep hole, this is the only choice. I love you guys,” he wrote.
In the note to his ex, he makes no such confession, but tells her not to “believe everything in the news.”
In the note, he mentions that he had tried to get back together with her recently but she “got a restraining order.”
“Why?” he wrote. “At that moment I felt like my entire world ended. I really needed you in a huge way, Look @ the mess I created, lol.”
He also refers to a “girl in the news,” who he says “was such a piece of s***, she hurt me over and over, when I was already @ my lowest, she was a horrible person.”
It is not clear who he is referring to.
After his suicide, one of his former girlfriends was interviewed by the Asbury Park Press, saying that she believed that Ozbilgen may have choked Parze to death because he liked choking women during sex. That ex told the interviewer that she had been in contact with Ozbilgen during the investigation, that he had showed no concern for Parze’s disappearance and she mentioned that he had recently stalked another ex-girlfriend.
Before his child porn arrest, Ozbilgen was already facing charges of domestic violence. Ozbilgen was accused in September of smacking a woman — identified by some news reports as Parze – and hurting her thumb and nail. The ex who was quoted in the 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.
An attorney for Ozbilgen’s parents released a statement denying the prosecutor’s charges that their son was responsible for Parze’s death and blamed his suicide on 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.
“We believe he is innocent, but all the pressure from the false child pornography charges and the constant searches and relentlessness caused him to take his own life.”
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.