By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
As Kim McAmis stands outside the Fullerton home she shares with her husband, Chris, their 4-year-old daughter, Skyla, giggles and runs in circles. It’s a small, one-story home with a detached garage and a large driveway that slopes down to a tree-lined suburban street. Save for the occasional passing car or walking neighbor, the area is quiet. An iron gate in front of the home opens to a tiny entryway adjacent to the front door. A carved wooden sign on the outer wall reads, “The McAmis’s.”
Just four days earlier, Placentia police entered that home, arrested Chris McAmis and took several items, including computer and GPS equipment, as evidence. Kim says police may also have taken a bracelet, as well as her daughter’s ankle bracelet.
Before that day, Kim, a 35-year-old medical assistant who came from Cambodia as a child, says she had little idea police had been investigating her husband for the February 2001 attempted rape and murder of 20-year-old Fullerton College student Lynsie Ekelund.
According to Placentia police, on Feb. 16, 2001, McAmis drove some friends to San Diego. In 2009, I wrote an article for Fullerton College’s Torch magazine about Ekelund’s disappearance. McAmis told me then that he picked Ekelund up at a house in Placentia—where she lived with her mother, Nancy—and, along with others, went to visit Lara Bollinger, a University of San Diego student. He explained they visited Bollinger for a while and “talked about stuff and life and stuff like that,” then returned to Orange County, where he dropped everyone off. Except Ekelund. He said he left her on a street corner two houses down from where she lived. It was sometime after midnight. From there, Ekelund seemingly vanished into thin air.
The ensuing investigation by Placentia police yielded inconclusive results, and the case went cold. Though there were no formal suspects, Detective James McElhinney told me in 2009, the case was treated as a no-body homicide. But, according to published news reports, Placentia police approached an investigative unit with the Orange County district attorney’s office in 2008 for assistance with the case. Two years later, on Oct. 27, detectives arrested McAmis and confronted him with new evidence including ATM footage that contradicted his original account.
Following his arrest, authorities say, McAmis, now 31, confessed to taking Ekelund—who was partially paralyzed on her left side as the result of a childhood car accident—to his Whittier apartment, where he attempted to rape her. In the ensuing struggle, McAmis reportedly strangled her; he then buried her corpse in a wooded Santa Clarita canyon construction site where he once worked with his father. Last week, with McAmis’ assistance, the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner located bones and clothing believed to be Ekelund’s there. A bracelet found with the body was reportedly identified as Lynsie’s by Nancy Ekelund.
For my 2009 article, I contacted Bollinger, at the time a lieutenant working as a public-affairs officer for the Navy in Washington, D.C. She said she remembered the group visiting her, but that they all spent the night and drove around her campus the next day and that the group didn’t head home until that evening. Bollinger is now stationed in Japan, where I contacted her via e-mail. “I unfortunately have no further information for you to add to our conversation back in ’09,” she wrote. “As for my recollection of events, I must have been thinking of a different occasion when a group of friends came to visit me.”
Among those who went on the trip was Andrea Meyers, who now lives in Tennessee with her husband. When I contacted her in 2009 via Facebook, she responded via e-mail: “Chris apparently failed a couple of lie-detector tests when questioned about the case. I had two detectives come to my house, and they told me to basically stay away from Chris and to stop contact with him. I was stubborn and stayed friends with him for a few months after that, and then decided not to be friends with him anymore.”
Following his recent arrest, Meyers wrote, “I am angry, and I feel sheer hatred for Chris that he did this horrible crime against her, and he deserves to sit and waste away in prison.”
During an interview with me in 2009, McAmis said he was employed in the construction industry operating heavy machinery. He also ran a video-gaming website called Gameweblinks.com; another site, erubusonyx.com, features biographical information about McAmis, as well as links to a company called Exeni Paving and Grading Inc. The page lists the phone numbers of Richard and Maria McAmis; attempts to reach them at these numbers were unsuccessful, and messages weren’t returned. The site advertises equipment rentals and grading and demo services. There are images of backhoes, skid steers and skip loaders, along with hourly rental rates.
For almost a decade, Nancy Ekelund has vacillated between despair and the hope her daughter was alive and had simply decided to leave town. She says she knew people who swore they saw Lynsie in a local supermarket.
Now that McAmis has confessed to her daughter’s murder, Nancy’s outlook has changed. “I know what happened to my daughter,” she says. “For nine years, nine months and 13 days [before authorities came to her house with the news], I had hope. . . . But I just know that everything in my life has changed. I’ve lost my best friend, I’ve lost my daughter, and I need to get over it, but I don’t know how to do it right now.”
McAmis is being held without bail at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles. According to Steve Whitmore of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, he is being treated as a “keep away” and has been isolated from the prison’s general population. An arraignment is scheduled at the Whittier courthouse for Nov. 30.
Three days before the unearthing of the remains, Kim expressed uncertainty in what the future held for her family. Chris was the one who stayed home with the kids while she worked, she said. “He’s a good husband and a good father. This is a big shock for me.”
This article appeared in print as "Buried Secrets: Chris McAmis recently confessed to murdering Fullerton College student Lynsie Ekelund in 2001. Their families try to come to grips with the news."