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After nearly 10 years, suspect confesses to killing Fullerton College student Lynsie Ekelund, officials say

November 4, 2010 | 12:46 pm

After nearly a decade of back-and-forth with police, authorities said Christopher McAmis finally gave in.

Investigators had long focused on McAmis in the disappearance of Lynsie Ekelund, a 20-year-old Fullerton College student and Placentia resident who was last seen with McAmis in February 2001. Placentia police searched his home and vehicle. They interviewed him three times and made him take two polygraph tests, Det. Corinne Loomis said.

Mcamis Authorities said McAmis had driven Ekelund and two friends to San Diego the night she went missing. But detectives obtained nothing more than circumstantial evidence against him, Loomis said, and McAmis repeatedly denied any involvement in the crime.

"For many years we were often in a place of 'Yes, you did'; 'no, I didn't'; 'yes, you did'; 'no, I didn't,'" Loomis said of the interviews.

But authorities said they arrested McAmis, 31, last week and confronted him with new evidence: records that detailed his whereabouts the night Ekelund went missing and the days after. Officials said the records, some of which were obtained from ATM cameras, conflicted with previous statements he had made to investigators. Loomis said authorities were able to use new technology that enhanced the security videos.

This time, Loomis said, McAmis told a different story, admitting to attempting to rape Eklund at his apartment in Whittier, then strangling her in a struggle. He told authorities he drove more than 50 miles to a Santa Clarita construction site where he worked, and buried her body beneath several feet of soil in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2001, Loomis said.

"When he said 'I might as well tell you' and began the recitation, I was stunned," Loomis said. "I really couldn't believe that I was hearing him confess to what we knew in our hearts for years."

Loomis said she was at the site in Santa Clarita on Wednesday when investigators first found bones. She said she strongly believes the remains are Ekelund's, although they have not been officially identified.

The discovery was the culmination of what Loomis described as an exhaustive -- and frustrating -- investigation.

"The investigation was stymied for a long time," she said. "We had no crime scene and no body."

Loomis said the break in the case came after her department asked the Orange County district attorney's office for assistance in 2008. At that point, investigators reexamined McAmis' statements and studied new evidence, including various video cameras that would have captured him on streets he claimed to have passed.

"The statements that he made were laid against the information we had, and it didn't match up," she said.

Loomis said that the new material "was presented to Chris in a way that made him realize he had nowhere to go," adding that his confession was "unemotional" and "matter-of-fact."

Loomis said she watched the interview from a separate room.

When it was over, she said, she drove to the home of Ekelund's mother, Nancy, and told her that McAmis had confessed.

"[She] said to me, 'I knew what you were going to tell me on the way home from work, but at the same time I held out hope that you had found her, and that when I came home you were going to be standing on the porch and Lynsie would be with you," Loomis said.

-- Sam Allen

Photo: Christopher McAmis. Credit: Orange County Sheriff's Department

Related: As remains are recovered, victim's grandmother says, 'How could anyone be so cruel?'