Last March Chris McAmis, 32, pleaded not guilty to the murder of Lynsie Ekelund. Monday he entered a guilty plea in a Whittier courtroom and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. By pleading guilty, McAmis was spared from a possible death sentence.
Monday's hearing was 17 months after Ekelund's body was found in Santa Clarita's Bouquet Canyon
Lynsie's mother, Nancy, called Monday "a good day" and says she's relieved.
"I went to where she was over the weekend and I actually told her what was going to happen today, and I think she heard me," said Nancy Ekelund.
For almost 10 years, Nancy Ekelund and investigators searched for Lynsie. McAmis said he dropped her off near her home in Placentia the morning of February 17, 2001, after a brief trip to San Diego.
After years of denials, interrogations and two inconclusive polygraph tests, investigators found new evidence in October 2010. When confronting McAmis, he confessed to strangling the 20-year-old Fullerton College student at his Whittier apartment, then driving 50 miles to Santa Clarita to bury her body at a construction site where he had worked.
"There wasn't a day that went by that I did not look for her. Not a single day," said Nancy Ekelund. "And when he took her life, he took me with her."
Lynsie was partially disabled from a car accident when she was 5 years old. Inside the courtroom, her father and a friend spoke of a young woman who had overcome tragedy, someone who was giving, loving and outgoing.
They also addressed McAmis, who in the time Lynsie was missing got married and had a daughter of his own.
"By God, I don't believe you have a heart. I truly don't believe you have a heart. But if you have one, I hope when you're in jail for the rest of your life, you stop and think if that was your daughter, that somebody did that to your daughter, what that would make you feel like, how you would feel," said Kimberly Keith, a friend of Lynsie's.
"Your despicable cowardly acts have left a profound level of sadness and grief with our entire family," said Stewart Ekelund, Lynsie's father. "We collectively hope that you live the rest of your life in hell."