Man charged in murder of Sandra Coke says he's innocent


Most defendants charged with serious offenses such as murder agree to delay their cases but Randy Alana, 56, who has 17 prior felony convictions, is refusing to waive his right to a speedy preliminary hearing so his hearing will be held on Monday.

His attorney, David Bryden, said Alana had "a fairly close relationship" with Coke, 50, for many years and they had a child together so "it doesn't make any sense that he wouldn't want her around."

Coke, who worked for the federal public defender's office in Sacramento, was reported missing by her daughter the night of Aug. 4. Coke's daughter said she last saw Coke when she left her home in the 600 block of Aileen Street in Oakland at about 8:30 p.m. that evening.

Coke's body was found in a park in Vacaville on Aug. 9 and she was formally identified by authorities on Aug. 13.

Alana was arrested at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station on Aug. 6 for allegedly violating his parole for prior convictions by having numerous contacts with Coke even though he had been ordered to stay away from her.

Authorities also alleged that Alana had removed his GPS monitoring device, had absconded from parole and had resisted arrest when he was detained.

Alana had Coke's car keys and debit card when he was arrested, according to a probable cause statement filed by Oakland police Officer Steven Bang.

Video and bank records show that Alana withdrew more than $400 from Coke's debit card from a 7-Eleven store in San Pablo shortly after midnight on Aug. 5, Bang said. The criminal complaint the Alameda County District Attorney's Office filed against Alana on Oct. 17 alleges that he murdered Coke "on or about August 4."

But Bryden said he's exploring reports that Coke was seen alive "in the company of another person" on Aug. 6, after Alana was arrested.

If that information proved to be true, it would show that Alana couldn't have killed her, he said.

However, Bryden said he won't present that information at Alana's preliminary hearing and will wait to present it at his trial, if a judge finds there's enough evidence to have him stand trial.

Bryden said Coke visited Alana "quite a lot" during his many years in state prison" and "helped him out" after he was finally released from custody in 2012.

The Alameda County coroner's bureau found that Coke died of asphyxia and compression of the neck. Bryden said the prosecution's case against Alana largely relies on circumstantial evidence, such as surveillance videos and cellphone records.

In addition to murder, Alana is charged with unlawfully taking Coke's vehicle and two counts of grand theft for allegedly using her debit card.

Alana's prior convictions include voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, rape and forced oral copulation.

According to former Alameda County prosecutor Russ Giuntini, Alana belonged to the Black Guerilla Family prison gang, as Alana's manslaughter conviction was for the stabbing death of fellow inmate and reputed gang colleague Al Ingram, 40, at an Alameda County jail in June 1984.

Alameda County sheriff's officials appear to believe that Alana is a dangerous inmate because seven deputies guarded him when he made a brief appearance in court on Monday, when his preliminary hearing date was set.

In addition, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office seems to be concerned about Alana because, in an unusual move, it sought permission not to give the names of the witnesses in his case to the defense.

After holding a hearing in his chambers on the matter, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Delucchi granted the prosecution's motion, saying, "There is good cause to believe that there could be threats or the possibility of danger to witnesses" if their names are disclosed.

Friends and colleagues of Sandra Coke have set up a fund in her memory. The money will go toward her teenage daughter's care and education. For more information on how to donate, click here.

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