Sex offender convicted in strangulation of Oakland federal investigator

Registered sex offender is convicted of killing a federal public defender investigator he had secretly dated

An Alameda County Superior Court jury has found a registered sex offender guilty of first-degree murder in the strangling death of 50-year-old Sandra Coke, a federal public defender investigator with whom he had fathered a child years earlier. 

Randy Alana, 58, also was convicted Wednesday of second-degree robbery, unlawful taking of a vehicle and two counts of grand theft. The trial, in which 84 witnesses were called to testify, lasted more than two months, but jurors took less than three hours to reach their verdicts.

“Randy Alana brutally murdered Sandra Coke, and with today’s verdict her friends and family as well as the community know that justice has been served,” Dist. Atty. Nancy E. O’Malley said in a statement. “We sincerely hope that after today’s guilty verdict, Ms. Coke’s family will be able to begin the long process of healing.”

Coke, whom friends described as dedicated to revealing the humanity of the often-violent clients she served, had met Alana during the course of her earlier work in a death penalty appeals office.

She later went on to work for the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, private law firms in California, the San Francisco public defender’s office and, most recently, the federal public defender's office for California’s Eastern District in the death penalty unit.

Though friends and family initially said Coke had dated Alana only briefly two decades ago, the case revealed that the pair had an ongoing and largely secret on-and-off romantic relationship.

Coke, an Oakland resident, had sought to help Alana get his life together. But he was ordered to stay away from her as a condition of parole not long before her death, after she accused him of breaking into her home, stealing her beloved cocker spaniel, Ginny, and attempting to extort her for the dog's return.

On the evening of Aug. 4, 2013, Coke left her Oakland home and disappeared after telling her teenage daughter that she was following up on a tip about Ginny. Alana is the girl's father.

Coke's two discarded cellphones and video of Alana driving her car and attempting to use her debit card helped lead investigators five days later to her body, dumped in a dry creek bed in Vacaville. Coroner's findings indicate she had been strangled.

Alana is a 17-time felon who was wearing a GPS monitoring device at the time of Coke's disappearance. But he disabled it.

declaration in support of an arrest warrant for Alana, unsealed before a parole revocation hearing last August, said Alana's supervising parole agent had received a text message Aug. 4 from the vendor of the monitoring device, noting that Alana's GPS was in "critical low battery status."

The next day, Nghia Tran received another text indicating there was a gap in the signal transmission from Alana's GPS. Tran checked the last point recorded by the device — about seven blocks from Coke's house — but failed to locate him.

“I am deeply gratified by today’s guilty verdict, and I commend the members of the jury for their diligence and focus,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Colleen McMahon said in a statement Wednesday.

Twitter: @leeromney

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