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Remains of runaway girl Nicholle Coppler found in Ohio rapist's home

Polly Klaas Foundation

Runaway Nicholle Coppler was last seen alive in Lima, Ohio, on May 15, 1999.

LIMA, Ohio -- The skeletal remains of 14-year-old Ohio runaway Nicholle Coppler, who went missing in 1999, have been found after the home where she was last seen was demolished, according to police.

The Lima News reported that police on Saturday said her remains were found in a crawl space as the home's foundation was being dug out. Allen County Coroner Gary Beasley said they were identified through dental records.

The home was owned by Glen Fryer, who had been a suspect in Coppler's death. The newspaper reported Fryer was 55 when he killed himself in 2002 while awaiting sentencing for raping a girl.

Unpaid taxes
The home was demolished after the state took possession due to unpaid taxes. Coppler's remains were the only ones found.

"I knew in my heart it was Nicholle," said the girl's mother, Krista Coppler, who now lives Florida. "I knew in my heart she never left that house."

Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said the discovery means the homicide investigation has been reopened. The newspaper reported that police have said Fryer had a link to human trafficking.

"Our goal is still the same: Try to get to the truth," Martin said. "Where exactly that will lead us I cannot say."

Lt. Jim Baker said detectives believe Fryer was involved in the death but that there also were other suspects. Police said other people knew the girl was in the house, and Lima police Maj. Richard Shade said at least two other people lived in the home with Fryer.

'Some good can come out of this'
Krista Coppler said she doesn't feel the investigation was handled properly in 1999 but that police have since changed policy on runaways.

"If, in Nicholle's name, she can save some other girls, some good can come out of this," she said.

The Lima News said Fryer had agreed to tell police what he knew of Coppler's disappearance but took his own life days before the meeting.

It said Martin also addressed criticism on why police were unable to find Nicholle's remains during earlier searches of the Fryer home. While they said cadaver dogs and FBI ground-penetrating radar were both used at the home, the technologies have their limitations, Martin told the newspaper.

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The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.