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When Stephanie Parze’s father learned his daughter was missing, he immediately had one suspect in mind — her ex-boyfriend.

“I didn’t like this person from the day I met him,” Ed Parze told Fox News Digital. “There wasn’t ever any eye contact with this guy. He was in and out. I even said to my daughter, ‘I’m not liking this. You’ve got to be careful with him.’ He was strange. I had a gut feeling from day one. … I just said, ‘It’s him.’”

The case of the New Jersey-based makeup artist is being explored in Investigation Discovery’s (ID) true-crime series, “Deadly Influence.” It delves into the underbelly of social media, exploring the dark reality of toxic online communities.


A screen shot of Stephanie Parzes social media page as an Instagram makeup artist.

Stephanie Parze was a social media influencer and makeup artist based in New Jersey. (Investigation Discovery)

“I’m speaking out because we need to get the awareness out so that this doesn’t happen to anybody else,”  Ed said. “It also keeps Stephanie alive.”

Ed described his daughter as a 4-foot-11 “firecracker” who had a passion for artistry. She quickly developed a following on social media.

“I didn’t realize that she had an influence on social media like she did until after the incident,” Ed admitted. “I knew she was doing things on social media and putting some art out there. She would always send me stuff, and I thought it was amazing. But I didn’t realize how fast it took for her to build a following.”

A close-up of Ed Parze speaking a camera crew.

Ed Parze, the father of Stephanie Parze, spoke out in the ID true-crime series “Deadly Influence.” (Investigation Discovery)

It was on an online dating site where Parze met John Ozbilgen, a stockbroker from New Jersey who worked on Staten Island, said Ed. The pair interacted on social media before hitting it off in person.

“It was very quick,” Ed recalled.

But the union was tumultuous. According to the series, Parze accused Ozbilgen of assault. She wanted to end the relationship.


A screenshot of a selfie taken by Stephanie Parze for her Instagram.

According to the series, Stephanie Parze met John Ozbilgen on a dating site. (Investigation Discovery)

Ed said he initially tried to warn his daughter about getting involved with Ozbilgen, 29.

“She would say, ‘Give him a chance, he’s shy. Once you get to know him, you’ll like him,’” said Ed. “What do you say to that? You have my 25-year-old independent, strong daughter. She knows what she’s doing. You would hope that you’re proven wrong. But I still had that gut feeling. And then my gut feeling was right.”

Parze was last seen Oct. 30, 2019. She left her parents’ home after a night out with relatives. She then drove back to her late grandmother’s nearby home but then failed to show up for a nanny job the next day. Her car and phone were discovered at the property, but there was no sign of forced entry.

A screenshot of Stephanie Parzes Instagram where shes displaying her blue hair.

According to the series, Stephanie Parze was killed Oct. 31, 2019. (Investigation Discovery)

“Stephanie only lived about six minutes from here,” said Ed. “She always called and texted whenever she got home. But when 25 minutes went by, and we didn’t hear anything, we immediately knew something was wrong.”

Parze’s mother called her daughter frantically but got no answer. Ed had hoped that his daughter, likely tired from the evening’s festivities, put her phone on silent and went to bed. But still, he felt uneasy.

“If you blew her phone up, she would call you immediately,” said Ed. “We went to bed that night not knowing what happened. The next morning, we still didn’t get that phone call. We then went over to the house. … We couldn’t find her at all. Nobody had seen her. And that started the search.”


Volunteers holding hands with a banner that reads bring Steph home

The Parze family holds a rally at Freehold Township High School to keep the “Bring Steph Home” effort going. Several volunteers stepped in to search for her. (Imagn)

Parze’s family organized a search party to find the influencer. More than 100 volunteers, many of them online followers, stepped in to help.

“I used to go on Facebook every night and just start putting posts out there,” said Ed. “More and more people came forward wanting to help. It pulled at my heartstrings. … I didn’t realize how far these posts had reached out to people. … Many people just recognized Stephanie from her face and being online all the time.”

Ozbilgen was eyed by investigators as a person of interest. According to the series, they discovered he sent Parze 10 angry, unanswered text messages the night before she vanished. 

John Ozbilgen in a jumpsuit with handcuffs.

John Ozbilgen, the ex-boyfriend of Stephanie Parze, arrives at State Superior Court in Freehold Nov. 19, 2019.  (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press/Imagn)

On Nov. 8, 2019, Ozbilgen was arrested and charged with one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child — possession of child pornography, the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office said in a statement. Images were found on his phone as authorities investigated Parze’s disappearance. He remained in custody until Nov. 19, when he was released.

On Nov. 22, 2019, Ozbilgen died by suicide. While he was never charged in Parze’s disappearance, he left behind a note indicating he was responsible for killing her.

Ed said he received an anonymous phone call that day. All he heard was, “He’s dead. He hung himself.” The mysterious caller hung up.


A missing sign for Stephanie Parze

Ed Parze said he “went nuts” after learning John Ozbilgen, a person of interest in the disappearance of his daughter Stephanie Parze, died by suicide. (Imagn)

“I went nuts,” said Ed. “I lost myself. I was punching walls. I was throwing stuff. I was screaming. I was going crazy because, in my mind, he’s the only one who knows where she is. I got in my car. I went to his house, which was only about three minutes away. 

“I was met there by a detective who took me out of there. … But I put up a fight. I said, ‘I gotta know. Is this true? Is there anything left behind? Are there any notes? … Somebody has to know something.’ [The detective] said, ‘Yes, it’s true. He’s gone. He did hang himself, but we can’t tell you anything else.’”

A tribute to Stephanie Parze outside her familys home.

A tribute to Stephanie Parze outside her family’s home.  (Imagn)

“There were two notes,” Ed said. “But nobody still didn’t know where she was. We were going to continue the search until we found her.”

In the note to his parents, Ozbilgen “said he had enough and that he could not do life in prison” and that what his parents would hear in the news “was true except for the charges of child pornography,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni. Ozbilgen also wrote that he had “dug himself a deep hole” and that “this was the only choice.”

An aerial shot of Old Bridge in New Jersey

Investigators near the site in Old Bridge, where the body of Stephanie Parze was found. (Imagn)

In January 2020, human remains were discovered in Old Bridge by two teenagers walking south along Route 9. Authorities confirmed it was Stephanie. Due to the state of decomposition, authorities were unable to determine how Parze was killed, according to reports.

Ed’s work wasn’t over even after Stephanie was laid to rest. On his daughter’s birthday that year, he founded The Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation. It aims to “provide education, intervention and support to families and individuals dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse and missing loved ones.”


Stephanie Parzes casket being carried by several men.

Stephanie Parze’s casket is carried from St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Freehold Jan. 31, 2020. (Imagn)

“We want to save lives and prevent this from happening to other people,” said Ed. “We’ve gone from six members to 128. Right now, we cover the whole state of New Jersey. … We have about 13 different programs that we offer to the public … from self-defense classes to alarm systems. We’re trying to get legislation passed for Stephanie’s Law, which would establish a publicly accessible domestic violence registry.”

A side-view of Ed Parze sitting in front of a camera crew.

Ed Parze founded The Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation to keep his late daughter’s legacy alive. (Investigation Discovery)

Today, Ed hopes Parze’s story will encourage other parents to be as vigilant as possible with their children.

“I always tell students, ‘Love is blind,’” said Ed. “It’s an old cliché, but there’s truth to it. You don’t know what’s happening to you because you’re blind to it. You don’t realize you’re being manipulated. You don’t realize that the person’s controlling you, and they’re isolating you from your friends and family. But your friends will see it. Your siblings will see it. Your parents will know it.

A screenshot from Stephanie Parzes Instagram displaying her makeup skills.

“Love is blind,” Stephanie Parze’s father Ed told Fox News Digital. (Investigation Discovery)


“If you’re going through something, don’t hide from your loved ones,” said Ed. “Tell somebody what’s going on in your life, especially if you break up with someone. Make sure you tell somebody that you’ve broken up with somebody because you don’t know what’s in the other person’s head at that point. The most dangerous part is during the breakup. That’s when people are the most vulnerable. That’s when most of the murders happen.”

“Deadly Influence” airs July 1 at 9 p.m. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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