AP NEWS

About 200 rally to keep search for missing NJ woman alive

December 22, 2019 GMT

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — About 200 people braved freezing temperatures to rally for a missing New Jersey woman over the weekend, part of her family’s effort to keep the light burning for her.

The rally in 25-degree weather at Freehold Township High School on Saturday was an effort to keep the “Bring Steph Home” effort going, the Asbury Park Press reported. People stood outlined in yellow police tape shaped into a heart as a tower ladder from the East Freehold Fire Company hoisted photographers over the crowd.

Stephanie Parze, 25, was last seen Oct. 30 after dropping her parents off at their house following a family night out.

Laura and David Isolda of Old Bridge, who were among the crowd, never knew Parze or her family but joined a Staten Island search for her and have since taken part in five other searches. David Isolda said they “just felt compelled to do something.”

“You have empathy for these people. You feel for them,” he said. “I see the father week after week and you wonder how he has the strength to get out of bed in the morning.”

Laura Isolda said all the unsuccessful searches can leave you feeling defeated, “but then you say, you know what, at least we can cross one more area we searched off the list.”

“Overwhelming,” Parze’s father, Ed, kept saying to himself as people climbed down from the icy bleachers at the football field.

“Unbelievable. Unbelievable,” he said, acknowledging that he was surprised by the outpouring. “Thank you. Keeping us going.”

John Ozbilgen, 29, named a person of interest in the case, was found dead Nov. 22. Authorities said his death wasn’t considered suspicious. Authorities say Parze had accused Ozbilgen of abuse during their months-long relationship.