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Big Mystery, and Urgency, in Daughter's Disappearance

March 03, 2001|MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The last time anyone reported seeing Lynsie Ekelund, she was standing a few feet from home in her suburban Placentia neighborhood during the wee hours of the morning, the end of a weekend trip to San Diego with friends.

That was two weeks ago. Now, detectives and her family said they fear for the safety of the 20-year-old Fullerton College student and have launched an all-out campaign to find her.

Police dogs have scoured local parks checking for Ekelund's scent. Police officers have combed through the files on her personal computer and searched several homes and cars for clues. They checked out reported sightings of the woman in parts of the county but so far have come up empty-handed. Authorities have spent 100 hours on the case and still have no idea where she is.

"We really don't know if foul play is involved, but we consider her in danger," said Placentia Police Det. Corinne Loomis.

Investigators said they are especially worried because there has been no activity in her bank account or on her cell phone since the day she vanished. She neither drives nor holds a state identification card. She vanished with little money in her purse.

"You can't go on for long when you're on 30 bucks," Loomis said.

Meanwhile, family members are posting hundreds of missing-person fliers across north Orange County.

"It's totally unlike her character," said Nancy Ekelund, who stops at the Police Department daily during her lunch break and after work to get updates on her daughter. "It's devastating. I don't cry anymore. I'm numbed."

The last time Lynsie Ekelund talked to her mother was the afternoon of Feb. 16, when she called to cancel their usual Friday night dinner. She said she was going to spend the night at a girlfriend's house in Anaheim. But she ended up going with several friends to San Diego.

Police are interviewing a friend of hers who said he dropped her off in front of her mother's next-door neighbors' home about 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 17. The friend said Lynsie asked not to be dropped off at her doorstep to avoid angering her mother.

Detectives said they are now trying to corroborate the friend's story. Another acquaintance said Lynsie occasionally asked to be dropped off at the same location at night so as not to wake her mother, they said.

"No one was picking up their newspaper or mowing their lawn at 4:30 in the morning, so we don't have any witnesses, nothing," Loomis said.

Nancy Ekelund didn't start worrying until the next afternoon, when she still hadn't received word from her daughter. Lynsie has lived with her mother her entire life, and the two never went a day without at least chatting on the phone. They even work together at the same office, car-pooling each morning.

The mother attributes their bond in part to a serious auto accident when Lynsie was a child. The crash partially disabled Lynsie's left arm and hand.

"We do everything together," Nancy Ekelund said. "We've been through ups and downs, but we've always been there for each other."

Her concern grew as the first day dragged on with no word from her daughter. That night, she called police to report her daughter missing.

"When Lynsie didn't call home Saturday evening, I was questioning it," her mother said. "I began to get really worried because she is very responsible."

Friends and neighbors have gathered to pray, offer support and help distribute the fliers around the neighborhood and at local fast-food restaurants, churches, parks and places the missing woman frequented. They have brought flowers, meals and fire logs to her mother.

Someone placed a card and a bag of lemons on her doorstep as a sign of encouragement and support.

"It's a parent's nightmare," said neighbor Jeannie Lydic, who has known Lynsie for 16 years. "We're just trying to do all we can during this tough time."

Lynsie Ekelund is described as 5 feet 7 and weighing 112 pounds with short, brown hair and hazel eyes. Anyone with information is urged to call Placentia police at (714) 993-8164.

"I'm not mad or angry. I just want a phone call from her telling me, 'Mom, I'm OK,' " Nancy Ekelund said, trying to hold back tears as she stared at a poem her daughter had written for her. "It's been two weeks, but I'm not going to allow myself to think negatively.

"Doctors said Lynsie had little chance of living after the car accident, but she did. She is a survivor."

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