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
He spoke with conviction and a little righteous anger. I believed him immediately. But because I knew McAmis had taken a polygraph test, I asked Pregenzer if the police had also asked him to do so. He said they had—and he'd refused to cooperate.
"I've just heard you never want to take one because they're unreliable," he told me, suddenly standing up and walking inside his house. I got the distinct hunch he might have refused the test because he was nervous answering questions about his relationship with a girl who was less than half his age.
Next, I turned to McAmis' friends, the ones he'd said were present the night Ekelund disappeared. I tracked down Bollinger, who in 2009 was a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy. When I phoned one morning, she seemed surprised. Struggling to remember details, she said Ekelund, McAmis and a few other people had visited her San Diego dorm room, but she offered a significantly different time line from the one given by McAmis. (Later, she would admit her memory was incorrect.)
"I barely knew this person you're talking about," she told me, referring to Ekelund.
At the time, Meyers lived in Tennessee and was pregnant with twins; she would only communicate with me via Facebook. She said her pregnancy was affecting her memory and that her recollection of that evening in 2001 was hazy. She recalled that the group, which possibly included Krier, went to San Diego for a night of dancing. Those plans fell through, she said, but Meyers couldn't remember what they had done instead.
McAmis, she added, left her at her house in Corona at about 4 a.m—roughly four hours after McAmis had told me he'd dropped off Ekelund. In a subsequent message, I asked Meyers whether she could confirm McAmis' story, since she presumably would still have been a passenger in his car. She didn't respond, and I couldn't find her telephone number, so I called her grandfather, hoping to get it from him. He promised to pass my message to her, and days later, I got a curt message from Meyers' husband, telling me to back off. (Later, police interviews would establish that while McAmis did drop Meyers off well after midnight, Ekelund was still in his car.)
Plotnik proved difficult to reach as well. During one visit to his Cerritos home with a fellow student from Fullerton College, an angry man who didn't identify himself answered the door. When we told him we were writing a story on Lynsie Ekelund, he interrupted us. "Let me just tell you one thing," he said. "You're barking up the wrong tree." He slammed the door shut, saying, "Have a nice day, buddies."
Days later, Plotnik called to apologize. Although McAmis had insisted he'd been present that night, Plotnik told me he hadn't taken any trip to San Diego on the night in question.
"I don't know why anybody mentioned my name," he said. McAmis, he said, was a compulsive liar. "Anything he'd say, he'd lie about everything." Plotnik refused to speculate if McAmis might have killed Ekelund. "The only person who is going to have any kind of answer is Chris," he said.
As the spring semester drew to a close, I wasn't any closer to answering the mystery of what happened to Ekelund. It didn't help that the stories I was getting from McAmis and his friends didn't match up very well or that some potential witnesses were proving unwilling to talk. Though police would later tell me I was wrong, it felt as though his friends were perhaps covering for McAmis. In May 2009, my deadline arrived, and the article published. It was time to move on to other stories. The question of what had happened to Lynsie Ekelund would have to wait.
* * *
In August 2010, I received an email at OC Weekly, where I'd recently been hired as clubs editor, from Larry Montgomery, an investigator with the Orange County district attorney's office. When I returned his call, Montgomery told me that Placentia police had asked him to take a look at the Ekelund case. He'd quickly zeroed-in on McAmis and his connection to the Los Angeles Residential Community (LARC) Ranch in northwestern Los Angeles County, a sprawling complex that provides housing for adults with developmental disabilities.
In 2001, Montgomery explained, McAmis operated a tractor for his father's company, Exeni Paving and Gravel, which was doing a job on the construction site at LARC. Montgomery believed McAmis had killed Ekelund and brought her body to the site, burying it in a remote area that measured roughly 1,000 square meters, an area too large to completely dig up.
Documents I obtained later show that on May 12 and 13, 2009, investigators with the Los Angeles Department of Coroner conducted a search of the site. When I recently interviewed one of them, a diminutive investigator with jet-black bangs named Elissa Fleak, she told me the agency used cadaver dogs, including a German shepherd named Indiana Bones, and a forensic backhoe to thoroughly search the ranch.
Visual line searches were also used, Fleak said. "We basically have as many personnel as possible, police and coroner employees," she said. "We just line up literally 6 feet [apart] and look for human remains, depressions, indentations, increased vegetation."