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Mother of Fullerton College student missing since 2001 finds closure after suspect confesses to killing

November 6, 2010 |  9:00 am

Remains For nine years, nine months and 13 days, Nancy Ekelund would remove a small, yellow Post-It note from her desk at work and replace it with a new one. Each slip of paper represented a day that her daughter, Lynsie, was missing.

But last Wednesday, she received a phone call that would halt that practice.

It was from the Placentia Police Department, and officers wanted her to come home as soon as possible. At first, Ekelund was excited. She thought maybe police would be delivering good news about her daughter, who disappeared Feb. 17, 2001, after a night out with friends. "When I drove up and I looked through the car window, I knew she would be standing there," she said.

Instead, police informed her that Christopher McAmis, 31, of Fullerton confessed to the attempted rape and strangulation of Lynsie Ekelund, a 20-year-old journalism student. McAmis had maintained his innocence for years, telling authorities that he dropped the Fullerton College student off near her northern Orange County home after she accompanied him on a trip to San Diego. But last week, he led authorities to where he had buried her in Santa Clarita. McAmis has been charged with murder and remains in custody.

"All of a sudden, they are here, and they had the worst news I'd ever expect to hear," Nancy Ekelund said, sitting stunned in her living room the night after police uncovered human remains believed to be those of her daughter.

Ever since Lynsie Ekelund vanished, her mother had always held out hope that she was alive somewhere. The two were almost inseparable after a car accident left Lynsie, then 5, partially paralyzed.

"She just wanted to be normal," Nancy Ekelund said. "I don't think she ever felt she was."

Nancy Ekelund published a cookbook to raise money for the search. She printed more than 16,000 color fliers and distributed each one herself. Every year at the Orange County Fair, Nancy Ekelund, a thin, soft-spoken woman with a high-pitched voice, would stand at the entrances and hand out fliers. She flew to New York and appeared on various talk shows, including those hosted by Montel Williams and  John Walsh.

"I was doing anything to keep her name out there," she said.

For seven years, she kept a poster featuring Lynsie Ekelund's face on her car. It became normal for people to tap her bumper while trying to see the poster's details.

"The last couple years, I really felt that she was alive," she said, adding that people still told her that they saw Lynsie. Her license plate reads "MISING L." On her rear window, a white sticker proclaims, "Memories become treasures."

"Now I know she's not hurting anymore," she said.

Now, Nancy Ekelund said she is preparing for a long legal battle as prosecutors try to convict McAmis on murder charges.

"It's a closure to whether she's alive or not," she said. "But it's the beginning of the legal part."

-- Nicole Santa Cruz in Fullerton

Photo: Los Angeles County coroner's investigators dig for remains in Santa Clarita.

Credit: Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times