Details of Disappearance
Sandra was last seen on November 16, 1996 with her son, John. The two had made plans to eat dinner at Sandra's mother's home in the vicinity of the 1100 block of University Drive in Bismarck, North Dakota.
While on her way back to her mother's, Sandra called the Bismarck Police Department on her cellular phone. She sounded very upset and said she believed satanic ritual abuse was taking place on a farm near Center, North Dakota. She said she called the Bismarck police rather than Center police or the Oliver County Sheriff's Office because she did not trust them.
Sandra and John arrived at Sandra's mother's home at 7:30 p.m. Sandra appeared to be having mental health problems and she agreed to let her mother take her to the hospital. Before she went, however, she wanted to purchase gasoline. She and John were last seen leaving the residence in Sandra's gray 1990 Honda Civic. A photo of the car is posted with this case summary.
They did purchase fuel, but they never returned to Sandra's mother's home and have never been heard from again. Sandra's mother reported her daughter and grandson missing at 10:00 p.m. that same day.
Sandra's car was found abandoned the next day, at the Centennial Beach parking lot near to the Missouri River in Bismarck. There was no sign of John or Sandra at the scene. The driver's side door of the car was wide open, the keys were in the ignition, and Sandra's purse was sitting on the front seat, its contents undisturbed.
Police searched the beach and the river and found a shoe that might have belonged to John. Strong river currents and severe weather hampered the search efforts and investigators could not search the river as thoroughly as they would have liked to.
Sandra separated from her second husband, Alan Jacobson, John's father, three months before she disappeared. She was living in a trailer in Center, North Dakota with John and her sixteen-year-old son by a previous marriage, Spencer Nastrom.
Sandra believed she was in the process of a divorce which was being handled by Alan, and she was anxious about a possible custody battle. However, Alan didn't mention the divorce to the police when he was interviewed, and when the authorities investigated, they learned there was no divorce pending.
Alan stated he was away on a business trip to Missouri between November 16, the day his wife and son disappeared, and November 18. Authorities have been unable to confirm his alibi, however. Alan was not completely cooperative in the search for his wife and son, and he refused to submit a DNA sample. He claimed he and Sandra were trying to reconcile and had signed up for couples counseling, but records showed he had never attended any counseling appointments.
After his wife and son disappeared, Alan went to Sandra's trailer in Center and removed most of the items inside, including clothes and food. The trailer was never searched by police, either before or after Alan cleared it out. Although Sandra's family said she kept a detailed daily journal, Alan said he did not find it inside her home. The journal has never been located.
Spencer stated he saw his mother's wedding rings in a change container inside Alan's home just days after Sandra went missing, and he didn't know why Alan would have had the rings, but he wasn't sure if his mother had been wearing them when she was last seen. When questioned, Alan said he didn't take the rings out of Sandra's trailer and he believed she'd left them with him when they separated.
In May 1997, six months after the Jacobsons disappeared, a child's shoe was found near the river in Centennial Park. Alan said he thought the shoe might be John's, but John's older brother and his grandmother both said they did not recognize it and thought it was too large to fit John's feet.
Just hours before she went missing, Sandra attempted to call her ex-husband, Vernon Nastrom, but he didn't answer the call. Vernon was subsequently interviewed about his ex-wife and her son's disappearance.
He told police that during his marriage to Sandra, she had been fascinated with the idea of the end of the world, and had made a pact with him: if it looked like the world was going to end, both of them would meet up and jump off the Memorial Bridge together. The bridge is near where Sandra's vehicle was located after she went missing.
However, Vernon said, Sandra later concluded that suicide was a bad idea; she thought it would condemn the victim's soul to walk the earth forever, never to enter heaven. He passed a polygraph about the Jacobson case and was never considered a suspect.
Vernon was himself the victim of a homicide in 2005. He was run over by his own car and left to die in a ditch on a maintenance road north of Tuttle, North Dakota. His murder remains unsolved and there's no indication it's connected to the Jacobsons' case.
One theory is that Sandra murdered John and took her own life by going into the river, but there is no hard evidence to support this. Police stated there is no evidence pointing to foul play in the Jacobsons' cases, and they have never had a suspect. Sandra was employed with the North Dakota Department of Transportation at the time of her disappearance.
The Jacobsons' cases remain unsolved. They were declared legally dead sometime after their disappearances.