LIMA — While the news Krista Coppler has waited nearly 13 years to get was sad, it brought solace knowing the young girl the family knew as Nicholle finally was coming home.“I knew in my heart it was Nicholle,” Krista Coppler said Saturday. “Now, we want to bring her home and lay her to rest.”Coppler and her family were at a press conference in which Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin announced the remains found earlier this month at a Lima home were identified as missing teenager Nicholle Coppler. Coppler was 14 when she disappeared in 1999. She was last seen at the home of Glen Fryer at 735 S. Elizabeth St., where police found her skeleton after the house was demolished and while the foundation was being dug out.“I knew in my heart she never left that house,” Krista Coppler said. Diana Coppler, Nicholle's grandmother, said the identification of Nicholle's remains confirmed what the family feared all along.“I'm glad that we have an answer now,” Diana Coppler said. Almost all of Coppler's skeleton was found during the recovery effort that stretched over three days. She was found buried beneath a crawl space. She was identified using dental records, Allen County Coroner Gary Beasley said. Fryer was the chief suspect in Coppler's disappearance after she was last seen at his house in the weeks that followed her disappearance. Fryer, 55, committed suicide in 2002 while being held in the Allen County Jail awaiting sentencing for raping a 12-year-old girl. He had agreed to tell police what he knew of Coppler's disappearance but took his own life days before the meeting.With the discovery of Coppler's body, the case becomes an active and open homicide investigation, Martin said. He vowed to pursue anyone who had a role in Nicholle's death.“Our goal is still the same: Try to get to the truth,” he said. “Where exactly that will lead us I cannot say.” Martin acknowledge finding Nicholle's remains really just creates a lot more questions than answers, but he said police would not stop until they exhausted all efforts to answer those questions, no matter the cost.“We are not going to be bean counters when it comes to justice,” Martin said. Martin declined to release the scenario detectives believe led to Coppler's death because of the pending investigation. In the meantime, the chief said he hopes the family can have some closure.Krista Coppler said finding her daughter's body was the first phase of closure, but there would not be a second and complete phase until anyone connected to her daughter's death was brought to justice. Justice may include charging people connected to human trafficking, to which police said Fryer had a link. Police also said other people knew Nicholle was in the house. Whether they had information on her death remains to be told. Lima Police Maj. Richard Shade said at least two people other than Fryer were living at the home. There have been no arrests connected to Nicholle's disappearance, although police have talked to 179 people who may have had information, Shade said. “I feel the trafficking, what has been exposed on the trafficking, if that all can be dismantled or girls can be saved, I think it also will be attributed to Nicholle,” Diana Coppler said. Lt. Jim Baker, who supervises the detective bureau, said charges may come, but it could take some time. He has two detectives on the case.“We fully believe Fryer was involved in her death but believe there were other people,” Baker said.Nicholle's remains have not been returned to the family. Beasley said the skeleton is at the Lucas County Coroner's Office in Toledo for further examination by forensic anthropologist to try to learn how she died. “We're looking for the cause and manner,” he said.Officials said establishing a date of death may be nearly impossible given the amount of time that passed.Beasley said dental records made it clear the remains were Nicholle's.Martin also addressed criticism on why police were unable to find Nicholle's remains during earlier searches of the Fryer home. While they used cadaver dogs and the FBI brought in ground-penetrating radar, both were used to their full capabilities. Even though such technologies exist, Martin said, they have limitations.The big break came when the state of Ohio took possession of Fryer's home because of unpaid taxes and the city decided to tear down the safety hazard. City officials notified detectives of the planned demolition, which they attended in case any human remains were found, Martin said.At the request of police, the demolition crew dug up the entire lot looking for other remains, but Coppler's were the only ones found, police said.Shade also made a personal plea for anyone with information to call police. In a rare measure, he gave out his direct line 419-221-5268 for the public to reach him personally without going through the switchboard. They also may call 419-227-4444. Numerous people have come forward with false information, whether they knew it or not, Shade said. That bad information led police to dig at numerous sites in the area as well as spend an untold number of hours chasing false leads, he said.Diana Coppler said false informations over the years was hard to deal with.“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,” she said.Some people even came to the family saying Nicholle was alive, the grandmother said. “We all did feel that she definitely was gone for many years. As her brothers married and had children, we knew if she was alive, she would be coming home,” she said.The false tips put the family on a long roller coaster ride of emotions, Diana Coppler said. “It was because we knew, if she still was alive, she was being held against her will and that was devastating,” she said.Diana Coppler said she hopes anyone with information would come forward regardless of what they may have said in the past.“So the whole story can be found and I just hope people will be honest to themselves and honest to the facts that are going to come out in the future,” Diana Coppler said. While the Coppler family has been critical of police, especially when nothing was initially done, Diana Coppler said she now believes police are doing a good job.Krista Coppler said beyond bringing her daughter home, she just wants answers. “Why? We believe we know, but it is under investigation,” she said.She believes her daughter realized she made a mistake running away from home and wanted to return, but Fryer wouldn't let her.“I think she found out the things that were going on and stood up for herself. She was always the kind who had to have the last word,” she said.Krista Coppler also believes her daughter died in the weeks or months after her disappearance. “I had to look at it as God probably took her when he did verses what she may have had to go through,” she said.While she now lives in Florida, partially because of the aftermath associated with her daughter's disappearance, she said she plans to be in Lima for a while. Her other daughter and five sons live here, she said. Krista Coppler said if she can see any good come out of her daughter's death, it is the change in police policy on runaways. “The investigation, in the beginning, we don't feel was handled right. Now, what's come about with the changes on how they handle it, was because of Nicholle,” she said. “If, in Nicholle's name, she can save some other girls, some good can come out of this.”In 1999, the family couldn't get police to help for more than a year after Coppler's disappearance. Martin recognized reports weren't always taken back then, but said that is not the case today.Lima police now immediately take a report and assign an officer. The officer chases leads and the missing person is entered into a national database within 24 hours. Dental records are obtained and the public is notified. Many of those changes are part of new state law, Martin said. “We have made improvements. Unfortunately, it does not help Nicholle,” Martin said. Krista Coppler urged parents who find themselves in the same situation as she did nearly 13 years ago to be aggressive in trying to get their child help and returned home. That includes seeking help beyond the police department. “Make sure you have a detective who cares and who will help you and stand by you and listen to you,” she said. Funeral arrangements are being made for Nicholle, but a final announcement will not come until Nicholle's remains are released to the family. Beasley had no idea how long that would take, but others suggested it would be a few weeks.
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.