Dakota Datebook

Cold Case

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Nothing can be more frustrating for a police department than a cold case. Here in North Dakota, there have been three incidents of unsolved cases involving missing people since 1989. Two of those who disappeared are Sandra Jacobson and her son John.

On this date in 1996, Sandra and five-year-old John were driving to her parents’ house for dinner. Sandra reportedly called the Bismarck Police on her cell phone to report what she thought was a satanic ritual on a farm near Center. She said she called Bismarck because she didn’t trust Center police or Oliver County Sheriff’s Department, both of which were much closer.

Sandra and John arrived at her mother’s house around 7:30 pm.   Sandra was reportedly having mental health problems and agreed to be driven to the hospital. However, Sandra wanted to fill her car with gas first, so she left with John. Later that evening, when she failed to return, her mother called the authorities.

The police determined that Sandra had, indeed, purchased gas, but the next day they found her car parked at Centennial Beach in Bismarck; driver side door open, keys in the ignition, and her undisturbed purse. There was no evidence of foul play. The Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department’s dive rescue and recovery team searched the river, but were limited by difficult weather conditions and a strong current.

Police Sergeant Bill Connor began investigating the missing person cold cases in 2004. When Sandra and John first went missing, Connor was a canine handler. He remembered searching along the river banks with his dog. Due to Sandra’s mental state and the discovery of her car by the river, many people have theorized that she committed suicide after killing her son. But Sergeant Connor is skeptical of the theory, noting Sandra’s close relationship with her older child, a teenage son.

While there was a possible sighting of the mother and son in Warroad, Minnesota in 2004, the pair have since been declared legally dead. Hopefully someone will crack this case one day, and put the minds of the Jacobson family to rest.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas




This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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