VACAVILLE (New America Media) - The search for a missing criminal defense investigator from Oakland ended Friday as authorities found a woman's body in Vacaville. There was no confirmation that the body was that of 50-year-old Sandra Coke. But after sending dozens of local police officers and FBI agents to search lakes and open space in two cities Thursday night and Friday, authorities called everyone back once the body was found in Vacaville about 1 p.m.
Officer Johnna Watson, an Oakland police spokeswoman, said the searches in Vacaville and Vallejo were related to the disappearance of Coke, who was last seen Sunday evening with a paroled, high-risk sex offender, Randy Alana, 56. Friends of Coke say she briefly dated Alana more than 20 years ago.
A source close to the investigation said a surveillance camera had filmed Coke's car crossing the Carquinez Bridge after she disappeared, and that Alana had been filmed by another camera filling up her car with gas at an undisclosed location.
The woman's body was found off Cherry Glen Road, across Interstate 80 from Lagoon Valley Park in Vacaville. On Friday night, the body was removed by Alameda County coroner's officials and taken to Oakland, where an autopsy will be performed to determine the woman's identity and cause of death, authorities said. Police would not discuss the condition of the body.
Coke was seen with Alana after she had left her North Oakland home at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, telling her 15-year-old daughter she was going to a drugstore and would be back in half an hour, police said. She never returned.
Alana was arrested Tuesday on an unspecified parole violation. He is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
Coke has worked as an investigator for the federal defender's office in Sacramento since 2009. Her Mini Cooper was found abandoned in West Oakland on Monday.
Her work phone was found on a street near the Oakland-Emeryville border Sunday, and her personal cell phone was found near an Interstate 80 overpass in Richmond after her daughter had used the Find My iPhone app.
The phone's signal had been tracked through the North and East Bay, including in Vacaville, said Coke's sister Tanya Coke-Kendall.
At a news conference Thursday, Coke-Kendall did not address Alana's arrest but broke into tears as she voiced hope that Coke would come home.
"We are all just desperate to see her returned home safely," Coke-Kendall said.
Alana has convictions for kidnapping with intent to commit a sex offense, rape, and rape in concert with force or violence, according to court records. He has been in violation of sex-offender registration requirements since June, records show.
He has been charged in the past with two murders.
He was tried twice in the slaying of Marilyn Pigott, 23, who was beaten to death with a hammer in 1983 in North Oakland. The first trial ended in a hung jury, and a second panel acquitted him.
In 1984, while in custody in Pigott's slaying, Alana and another inmate, James Benson, were accused of stabbing another prisoner more than 90 times, killing him. Benson was convicted of murder, and Alana pleaded no contest and received a six-year sentence.
Former prosecutor Russ Giuntini, who tried Alana twice in the Pigott slaying, said Alana and Benson at one point put a $100,000 contract on the prosecutor's life after they learned he had worn a wire while talking to jail inmates.
"In short, he's led a life of crime," Giuntini said. "He's a charming guy with women, and he's particularly cruel to women."