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The problem is the transmission range sensor. It may be broken or may just need adjusting. I would test it in place by removing the connector and using an ohmmeter to see if the start pins are connected when the shifter is in the park or neutral position. If not, see if it will adjust so that it works. If it's not adjusted right, the teansmission will not shift properly either.
You might want to check the distributor. Take the cap off and check if there is play on the rotor shaft. It's only supposed to turn, but if there's play when moving it back and forth, better you replace the distributor now. The 2000-2004 Xterras have a bad distributor shaft and the throttle positioner sensor is on the shaft. Just FYI.
It's probably the distributor. Check the shaft inside and see if it moves. It's only supposed to turn, now inside the distributor you'll see a dial, that's your throttle positioner sensor and it's the reason for the symptoms you've mentioned. Just replace the distributor and it should fix it. 2000-2004 Xterras have trouble with with the distributors.
Dont think they will be related but when you press the brake pedal with the ignition on can you here a solenoid click under the gear shift? These are common to fail and often don't release the shifter.
if the shifter is moving then it is probably your trans. but if the shifter is not moving from the park possition (if it is an automatic) check to see if brake lights are coming on if not check fuse for brake lights,it also controls your shift lock.try turning key to possition before lights come on dash board and moving shifter into nuetral pos. then start car and put into gear give that a try, if it does the shift lock isn`t working.
First have her turn the steering wheel back and forth while trying to turn the key. Then if that does not work try moving the shifter as much as she can with the brake pedal depressed. If for some reason that does not work she will have to get it to a dealer. Good luck, dont forget to rate.