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John was last seen on November 16, 1996 with his mother,
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. One theory is that Sandra murdered John and committed suicide by going into the river, but there is no hard evidence to support this.
Sandra separated from her second husband, John's father, three months before she disappeared. She was living in an apartment in Center, North Dakota with John and Spencer Nastrom, her sixteen-year-old son by a previous marriage. Sandra was very close to her oldest son, and her mother raised him after her disappearance. Nastrom's father was 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.
Police stated there is no evidence pointing to foul play in the Jacobsons' cases, and they have never had a suspect. Their cases remain unsolved. They were declared legally dead sometime after their disappearances.