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Remains of Army vet, dog found in California desert, ex-husband charged with murder

California law enforcement officials on Friday found in a shallow grave the bodies of a missing U.S. Army veteran and her beloved dog, both of whom had been missing since Labor Day weekend.

The bodies of Julia Beth Jacobson, a 37-year-old retired Army captain, and her Wheaten terrier, Boogie, were found in the desert in Cactus City, an unincorporated community near Interstate 10 in Riverside County, south of Joshua Tree National Park. Ontario police officials said the remains were found with the help of a cadaver dog.

They were also found with the cooperation of Jacobson’s ex-husband, Dalen Larry Ware, who was arrested on suspicion of murder Oct. 13 at his home in Laveen, Arizona. Ware, 39, is being held in lieu of $1 million bail in the San Bernardino County Jail.

Jacobson and Boogie were found during the third day of searching, police officials said. A total of 120 officers and deputies from four different agencies scoured an area that was about 6 square miles in size. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Ware’s lawyer wrote in an email that his client voluntarily led investigators to “the place he had buried (his ex-wife)” without cutting a deal for leniency with prosecutors. 

The bodies were found the same day that Jacobson’s family held a memorial service for her in her native North Dakota. Her sister, Casey Jacobson, wrote on Justice for Julia, a Facebook page set up in her memory, that police officials informed the family of the discovery as they were saying goodbye to the mourners who had attended the funeral. 

“While it was gut-wrenching news, it was the first time that my father and my two brothers and I were all in the same place and could receive the news immediately, face to face with each other,” Casey Jacobson wrote. “That was a blessing.”

Jacobson and her dog were initially reported missing Labor Day weekend in San Diego. Investigators with the San Diego Police Department conducted an extensive search, which led them more than 100 miles north to Ontario.

NBC News reported in October that Jacobson was last seen, with Boogie, on the security footage from a store in Ontario.  

Ontario detectives, who took the lead on the case, found forensic evidence in Jacobson’s white Chevy Equinox that led investigators to believe she had been slain, according to a news release from the Ontario Police Department. Investigators believe she was killed the day after she went missing. 

Jacobson’s SUV was found abandoned Sept. 7 in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, not far from her home, the Union-Tribune reported. The keys were inside. 

NBC News reported that the SUV, Jacobson’s company car from her job with 7-Eleven corporate, was tracked through its OnStar program. The vehicle was unlocked, with the windows partially rolled down. 

Detectives from both San Diego and Ontario met with San Bernardino County prosecutors who, based on the evidence gathered in the case, obtained a warrant for Ware’s arrest, Ontario police officials said. Ware was taken into custody by agents from the FBI’s Arizona Violent Crimes Task Force and the Phoenix Police Department.

He was booked into the San Bernardino County Jail on Oct. 27, jail records show. 

Investigators have not made public a possible motive for the homicide. The Union-Tribune reported that Jacobson, who married Ware in February 2014, separated from him in March 2016. She filed for divorce, which was granted that December. 

KGTV in San Diego reported that another ex-wife requested a domestic violence restraining order against Ware in April 2014. The woman wrote that he had not “accepted (the) divorce and (her) moving on with (her) life.”

The woman wrote that she had numerous saved texts and voicemails from Ware and that his harassment was making her life “miserable.” She told the court she feared for her safety.

“It has now escalated to him stalking me and popping up at any time,” the woman wrote, according to the news station

Jacobson, a native of Dickinson, North Dakota, served in the Army ROTC in college and, upon her graduation, was appointed a second lieutenant in the Army, according to her obituary. She was deployed twice to Iraq and once to Bosnia.

Her obituary said she was well-respected by supervisors, peer and subordinates.

“She served our country honorably and bravely for over five years and separated in 2009 as a captain,” the obituary read. “She was awarded the Bronze Star medal for her service in a combat zone.”

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The obituary said that Jacobson and her three siblings lost their mother to breast cancer earlier this year. She was making plans to have their father spend part of the year with her in California. 

She was described as an adventurer with a “big heart, razor sharp wit and candor,” who adored her family and friends. 

“She will be missed by all who knew and loved her. Julia left this earth too early, but Julia believed God always has a purpose,” the obituary read. “Even though Julia is no longer physically with us, she will live on in our hearts and minds.”

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