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Missing federal investigator's body found near Vacaville

Sandra Coke, 50, disappeared Aug. 4. Her body was found Friday outside a park. Oakland police say a parolee is a person of interest but not a suspect.

August 13, 2013|By Lee Romney and Paige St. John
  • Sandra Coke was last seen Aug. 4, when she left her Oakland home to pick up a prescription for her daughter. Her car was found a few days later about two miles away.
Sandra Coke was last seen Aug. 4, when she left her Oakland home to pick up… (Associated Press )

OAKLAND — Police on Tuesday confirmed that the body found outside a park near Vacaville was that of missing federal investigator Sandra Coke.

In a brief news conference, Oakland Police Department spokeswoman Johnna Watson said the Alameda County coroner had positively identified the body found Friday. She said parolee Randy Alana remained a "person of interest" in the case, but he was not a suspect.

"We are extremely limited in the information we can share about this investigation," Watson said.

Coke, a capital case investigator for the federal public defender's office in Sacramento, disappeared Aug. 4 after leaving her Oakland home to pick up a prescription for her daughter.

Coke's car — a convertible Mini Cooper — was found a few days later about two miles away in West Oakland. Her family and friends had gathered together in the Bay Area after Coke went missing  and announced a $100,000 reward for anyone with information that would lead police to the 50-year-old.

On Thursday, police said that Alana, 56, was seen with Coke the day she disappeared and was a person of interest in the case.

He is listed in the state's Megan's Law database as a "high-risk" sex offender with convictions for rape, rape in concert with force or violence, kidnapping with intent to commit a sex offense and oral copulation. That database noted that Alana had been in violation of registration requirements since June 11.

He was assigned a GPS monitoring device after his last release from custody on a second-degree burglary conviction, and a separate database showed a warrant was issued for his arrest Aug. 6 for failure "to participate" in the monitoring program.

An alarm sounds when a GPS device is tampered with. It remained unclear Tuesday when Alana had tampered with his device and what parole officers knew about his whereabouts.

A spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Oakland police had requested that no information on Alana be shared at this time. "It is our standing policy that we check with an investigating agency when asked," he said. "They have asked us not to."

Alana and Coke dated briefly two decades ago, and he had recently contacted her.

A search for Coke's body began Thursday evening 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 the next morning. On Friday afternoon, Oakland investigators received information that moved the search to the Vacaville park, where Coke's body was discovered.

In a statement Tuesday after the body was identified, Coke's family said they were devastated by her loss and would miss "her good cheer, easy laugh and generous hugs.... Those of us who were privileged to know Sandra will remember her as an unusually kind, generous and big-hearted person."

The family also expressed gratitude to the hundreds of volunteers who had searched for her.

"Your care and expressions of concern have been humbling," the statement said. "Our family and Sandra's daughter will need time and privacy to mourn our loss. We thank you for understanding our need for privacy."

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