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Body may be that of missing federal investigator

Three days after a 'person of interest' in Sandra Coke's disappearance is arrested, a body is found 45 miles northeast of her home.

August 09, 2013|By Lee Romney and Emily Foxhall
  • Sandra Coke in a family photo.
Sandra Coke in a family photo.

SAN FRANCISCO — Three days after a "person of interest" in the disappearance of an Oakland woman was taken into custody, searchers located a body in tall brush about 45 miles northeast of her home.

While the female remains discovered outside Lagoon Valley Regional Park near Vacaville had not been identified by Friday evening, the development suggested a tragic conclusion to the search for Sandra Coke.

The 50-year-old capital case investigator for the federal public defender's office in Sacramento disappeared Sunday after leaving her home to pick up a prescription for her 15-year-old daughter.

Coke's car — a convertible Mini Cooper — was found a few days later about two miles away. Her family and friends have come together in the Bay Area throughout the week and on Thursday announced a $100,000 reward for anyone with information that would lead police to her.

"I flew in from the East Coast this week to find my sister, and I will not leave until we find her," Tanya Coke said in front of her sister's home Thursday.

Wendy Springer, a friend of Coke's since the fourth grade, called her "a wonderful friend and mother who is dedicated to caring for others in her professional and personal life. We all want to see her come home."

Oakland police revealed a development in the case shortly afterward, saying Randy Alana, 56, had last been seen with Coke and was a person of interest in the case. He had been taken into custody Tuesday on an unrelated parole violation.

Alana and Coke dated briefly two decades ago, and he recently contacted her. He is required to register as a sex offender but had not done so since June, according to local media accounts. He has prior convictions for rape, rape in concert with force or violence and kidnapping to commit a sex offense.

Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson could not be reached for comment Friday; an officer with the department's missing persons detail said no statement would be forthcoming on the case until the body is identified.

Solano County Sheriff's Deputy Daryl Snedeker said a search began at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Solano County Fairgrounds near Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, based on information received from Oakland investigators.

At least two dogs and more than 70 searchers from multiple agencies combed the area into the night and resumed again Friday morning. As four Contra Costa County Search and Rescue teams headed to the scene around 1 p.m. to join the effort, Oakland investigators received information that moved the search to the Vacaville park.

The body was discovered shortly thereafter in a mostly uninhabited rural area with a lot of high brush, Snedeker said.

On a website launched by the family, a loved one posted this message Friday: "The police have asked us not to comment on details of the investigation. We will make no additional comments today. Thank you for your support in the search for our beloved Sandra."

lee.romney@latimes.com

emily.foxhall@latimes.com

Romney reported from San Francisco and Foxhall from Los Angeles.

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