David Crane  /  AP
Authorities remove the remains that were found in a remote area in a canyon on Thursday in Santa Clarita, Calif. Bones and clothing found Wednesday in Santa Clarita Canyon were believed to be the remains of Lynsie Ekelund, a 20-year-old Fullerton College student.
updated 11/5/2010 1:56:49 PM ET 2010-11-05T17:56:49

When a detective called Nancy Ekelund and told her to come home last week, the mother who had been searching for her missing daughter for nearly a decade expected to find her child waiting on the porch.

"There's three miles between work and my condo and I thought the whole time she was going to be there," said Ekelund, who lives in Brea. "I didn't expect what they were going to say to me."

Instead, Ekelund was met by a weeping investigator who told her that bones found in a rugged Santa Clarita Canyon were believed to be her daughter's remains. Authorities this week have been searching the wooded site after suspect Christopher McAmis said he used a tractor to dig a 4-foot grave for the woman.

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Lynsie Ekelund, who had been partially paralyzed by a car accident as a child, vanished after going to San Diego with McAmis and two fellow Fullerton College students on Feb. 17, 2001, investigators said.

This week, Nancy Ekelund has been waiting by the phone for confirmation from the coroner's office that bones and clothing are the remains of her daughter, then a 20-year-old Fullerton College student. DNA testing and X-rays will be used to confirm the identity, which had not been done by early Friday.

McAmis was considered a person of interest in Ekelund's disappearance but was not arrested until last week. The 31-year-old Fullerton construction worker was charged with murder and remained jailed without bail.

McAmis had always maintained he was innocent. He repeatedly told police interrogators that he had dropped off Ekelund on a corner near her home.

In 2008, police asked for assistance from the Orange County district attorney's office and were able to use enhanced footage from an ATM camera to contradict McAmis' claim that he had driven up a certain Placentia street, Detective Corinne Loomis told the Orange County Register.

Confronted with the evidence during another interrogation last week, McAmis told investigators: "I might as well tell you" and confessed in a matter-of-fact way that he had strangled Ekelund during an attempted rape in Whittier, then buried her 50 miles away, Loomis told the Los Angeles Times.

He took detectives to the burial site in Bouquet Canyon, near a ranch for the mentally disabled.

He could face life in prison without parole if convicted.

Story: Could bones in Calif. canyon solve cold case?

'Don't go with him'
Nancy Ekelund said her daughter had already gone to coffee with McAmis, then 21, when she agreed to go with him to a party. Ekelund said she walked outside to watch them drive away. Her daughter was carrying a little backpack and was going to spend the night with friends.

"There was just something about him and I thought, 'Oh Lynsie don't go with him,' but then they were gone," she said.

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Ekelund said she never stopped searching for her daughter and for a time was angry that police weren't responding to her calls and letters. She had long suspected McAmis since he was the last person seen with her daughter.

In a 2003 interview with The Associated Press, Nancy Ekelund said she had left her daughter's room intact, with posters on the walls and dirty clothes in the hamper. She raised $22,000 to reward anyone with information on the case.

Over the years, people would periodically raise her hopes, convinced they had spotted her daughter at a grocery store or elsewhere.

About a year ago a new detective had taken an interest in the case and began poring over old records, Ekelund said. Eventually they started taking a closer look at McAmis.

Then last week, authorities called with news. Detectives told Ekelund they had arrested McAmis, who was now married with a child of his own.

"That was nine years, nine months and thirteen days after she disappeared," Ekelund said.

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