Probe continues in 2001 Whittier slaying

Authorities on Thursday continued excavating human remains in Santa Clarita Valley believed to be those of a 20-year-old Fullerton college student allegedly killed by a friend in a Whittier apartment nearly a decade ago.
Christopher McAmis, 31, has confessed to killing Lynsie Ekelund of Placentia on Feb. 17, 2001 at an apartment he then rented on Santa Gertrudes Avenue in Whittier, according to Placentia police Detective Lt. Dale Carlson.
Carlson said detectives have been keeping Ekelund’s mother, Nancy Ekelund, and other family members up to date on the progress in the investigation.
“She’s had to endure this for 10 years. There’s going to be a range of emotions,” Carlson said. “Our goal is to bring her daughter home, if that’s in fact who it is that they’re working on out there, and to bring her killer to justice. Outside of that. I don’t know what comfort we can give her.”

Carlson said the case was being investigated as a missing person until Oct. 29, when McAmis was arrested on suspicion of Ekelund’s slaying, then confessed.
McAmis — a Fullerton resident at the time of his arrest — then pointed out a spot in the Santa Clarita Valley where he said he had buried Ekelund’s body while working on a construction site.
McAmis picked up Ekelund and two other female friends on Feb. 16, 2001 before taking them to a San Diego nightclub, Orange County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
The next morning, McAmis dropped off the other two friends before taking Ekelund back to his apartment in the 11500 block of Santa Gertrudes Avenue in Whittier, where he’s accused of killing her during a rape attempt, according to authorities and public records.
Police and coroner’s investigators found human remains in the area indicated by McAmis on Wednesday, and the careful process of excavating the remains continued Thursday.
While Los Angeles County coroner’s officials have not identified the body through scientific means, Carlson said investigators believed the skeleton is likely that of Ekelund.
“It would be an incredible coincidence that there are human remains in the general location where McAmis had told us that he disposed a body,” he said. “But anything can happen.”
Coroner’s Assistant Chief of Operation Ed Winter said the process of identifying the body through X-rays and DNA could be completed within days or weeks.
Family members said Ekelund was greatly missed.
“So many people loved her,” Nancy Ekelund told a newspaper. “She didn’t deserve to die by any means, at any age.”
The remains were found about four feet underground, Winter said.
McAmis told investigators he used a tractor to bury the remains, he said.
Winter said investigators hoped to have the process of carefully removing the bones, clothing and other evidence from the earth completed Thursday.
The construction project has since been completed, Carlson said, and the excavation site is an outdoors and unpaved section of private property that has several homes built on it.
Detectives declined to say how exactly McAmis is suspected of killing Ekelund, or what information led them to arrest him late last month.
In 2008, Placentia detectives asked Orange County District’s Attorney’s Office’s investigators to assist Placentia police “in looking at the information that we already had,” Carlson said. The renewed investigation led authorities to jail McAmis.
“He looked like a nice-looking young man. I can’t imagine anybody being that cruel,” said the victim’s grandmother, Patricia Ekelund.
“I can’t imagine someone being so heinous toward a little girl like that,” she said. “You know, she had a crippled arm and wasn’t able to defend herself.”
Word that her granddaughter’s body may have been found provided a sad ending — but at least it was an ending, she said.
“Something like this where nothing is found, you’re always hoping and you’re always looking, you know, and always wondering if someone’s abusing her or whatever,” she said.
“I have little notes from her that I have kept for years,” she said. “You always had that hope that she’ll be found and be safe, wherever she was.”
Once McAmis admitted killing Ekelund in Whittier, the case was handed over to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Because Placentia investigators are already intimately familiar with the case, which they’ve been working on for more than nine years, Carlson said, Whittier police elected not to take over the investigation.
“Whittier was made aware and was given the opportunity to handle the case,” he said. “They deferred to us since we’d already taken it most of the way.”
According to sheriff’s booking records, McAmis is due for arraignment Nov. 30 in Whittier Superior Court. He’s being held without bail.
Public records indicate that McAmis moved out of his Whittier apartment the month after Ekelund’s disappearance, and has since had addresses in Placentia and Fullerton.
Court records show he has no prior criminal convictions in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.
If convicted as charged, McAmis faces the possibility of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors will later decide whether to seek the death penalty.
Nancy Ekelund said she plans a memorial service after her daughter’s body is recovered and would like to help other parents in similar situations.
“I just want her memory to stay alive,” Ekelund said. “I can’t let this go down as an event that isn’t a service to other people.”
— Staff Writer Ruby Gonzales and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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