Almost 13 years after her disappearance, the remains of a teenage girl in have been found in the home of her suspected killer in Lima, Ohio.
Nicholle Coppler, 14, had run away from home in 1999. She was last seen alive in the home of Glen Fryer, who became a primary suspect in the case of her disappearance. Fryer, a convicted rapist, was behind bars in 2002 when he took his own life. He had not yet been convicted of Coppler's murder.
Fryer's former home was undergoing demolition when the body was found underneath a crawlspace. The remains were mostly skeletal, and dental records confirmed the identity of the victim. Lima police announced their findings at a press conference on Saturday.
Nicholle's mother Krista Coppler finds some solace in the discovery. Now, she said, she will be able to lay her daughter to rest. But questions remain as to why the victim wasn't found earlier. The investigation, in the beginning, we don't feel it was handled right, she said to The Lima News.
It was a struggle in the first place to enlist the help of law enforcement; police didn't begin searching until over a year after Nicholle's disappearance. Nicholle's grandmother Diana Coppler recalls the emotional ups and downs of the ordeal -- she and other family members were sometimes frantic, sometimes despondent and sometimes buoyed by false hopes. The hardest part was not knowing exactly what happened to her. Stories came to us over the years and we based a lot of our belief in the stories. Usually, all the stories did come up incorrect.
Today, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin is facing fresh criticisms regarding his department's handling of the case over a decade ago. Police had suspected Fryer, eventually enlisting the help of the FBI to search his house. It is unclear why cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar did not help detectives locate the body; Martin's only explanation was that technology inevitably has limitations.
Now that remains have been found, the case has been reopened and the work is far from over. Police maintain that Fryer may have been connected to a human trafficking scheme, so further investigations could lead to some important discoveries. Furthermore, two other people were reportedly living at the house while Nicholle was present and may be connected to the crime.
As the case goes on, Krista Coppler hopes that the Lima Police Department will apply the lessons they've learned from her daughter's case. If, in Nicholle's name, she can save some other girls, some good can come out of this, she said.
Martin explained that these days, disappearances are handled very differently. The Copplers had to wait too long for legal intervention. Now, state laws mandate that an officer will respond immediately to a missing persons report, chasing leads and entering the information into a national database within 24 hours.
We have made improvements. Unfortunately, it does not help Nicholle, Martin said.
Nicholle's remains are currently under examination by a forensic anthropologist in Toledo in order to determine the exact cause of death. Funeral arrangements will proceed once the skeleton is returned to the Coppler family.