A small group of people gathered Sunday morning at LARC Ranch in Bouquet Canyon to say goodbye to a resident that no one ever met.
As pink balloons released into the wind floated gently skyward, a few people wiped tears from their cheeks and others pondered the sight in thoughtful silence.
A few rows of neat, white folding chairs were set up very near the spot where, just a few months before, coroner’s investigators found the skeletal remains of a young woman that were soon identified as Lynsie Ekelund, a Fullerton College student who disappeared in 2001.
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“I want to thank everyone who had anything to do with finding my daughter,” said Nancy Ekelund, a slight woman with bright eyes and an eager smile. “This is a very special place that was chosen for Lynsie to be and I thank everybody for that.”
This was the first time she had met some of the many investigators who tried to find out what happened to her daughter nearly 10 years before.
LARC Ranch Executive Director Kathy Sturkey spoke to those gathered, thanking them for handling the investigation discreetly, while acknowledging the special circumstances of the surroundings.
“LARC Ranch is 65 acres of land that’s been here for 51 years,” she began. “We serve developmentally disable adults so it’s befitting that Lynsie came here to be in a place of comfort, warmth and love to be at peace.”
The search for Lynsie’s remains began more than two years ago. After the cold case was reopened in 2008, investigators questioned their prime suspect, Christopher McAmis, who admitted to killing Lynsie and burying her body on the Saugus ranch.
Prior to the ceremonies, Orange County District Attorney Investigator Larry Montgomery, who led the investigation, took Nancy on a walk through the residential community, explaining about buildings were not there in 2001 and showing her the results of the construction project McAmis and his father worked on that might have given him the idea that Lynsie’s body would never be found.
He ending up on a bluff that offered an overlook of the grounds, pointing out where the dig began and explaining how the search narrowed down, with help from forensic anthropologists and scientists who traced the plume of chemicals released by a decomposing skeleton.
Technology not available when Lynsie was murdered came into play through research that started in Saugus and reached back to The Body Farm in Tennessee, where Dr. Arpad Vass, the foremost authority on this kind of detective work consulted and advised, helping his California counterparts pinpoint the location.
As Montgomery led the group along a fence toward the spot where Lynsie was found, a group of residents stood in silence, until a woman stepped forward and approached Nancy.
“We’re so sorry for your loss,” she said. The women embraced and others patted Ekelund’s shoulder.
The reunion Sunday brought together all those who were able to solve the case; from forensic experts to pavement-pounding detectives to Buster, one very serious, but friendly, Labrador with a priceless nose.
“I wanted to meet the dog that found my daughter,” Nancy Ekelund said. The pair met face-to-face before most of the crowd arrived, the dog sitting calmly next to his trainer, Paul Doste. Petting his large black ears, she smiled with gratitude – an emotion Doste said made the long hours of work worthwhile.