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Family, Friends Intensify Search For Missing Investigator From Oakland

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Sandra Coke went missing over the weekend (Coke family/OPD)

Sandra Coke went missing over the weekend (Coke family/OPD)

TimRyan20100909_KCBS_0232r Tim Ryan
Tim Ryan graduated from CSU Chico with a Journalism degree and work...
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OAKLAND (CBS SF) – More than a dozen friends and family members of missing Oakland woman Sandra Coke plastered her North Oakland neighborhood with flyers Wednesday, in the hopes that someone will come forward with information about her whereabouts.

Friends and family on Wednesday described Coke, who celebrated her 50th birthday last week, as a highly dedicated mother to her 15-year-old daughter and an investigator with the federal public defender’s office in Sacramento.

“We are quite certain my sister has been abducted because this is entirely out of character,” said Coke’s sister, Tanya Coke Kendall, who flew out from New Jersey on Tuesday. “She is a conscientious employee and mother who would never, ever leave her daughter alone for the evening.”

Coke disappeared Sunday night after leaving her home in the 600 block of Aileen Street. Around 8:30 p.m. Sunday, she told her daughter she was meeting someone with information about the family’s missing dog and would return home in 30 minutes, Coke’s sister said.

As the hours passed and Coke didn’t return or answer her phone, her daughter grew increasingly worried and called a family friend, her sister said.

Late Sunday night, a missing person report was filed.

On Monday night, police located Coke’s 2007 Mini Cooper convertible in the 800 block of 32nd Street, about 2 miles from her home, according to Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson.

Police also found Coke’s two cellphones in separate locations—one discarded near the Oakland-Emeryville border and another near the intersection of Macdonald and Wilson avenues off of Interstate 80 in Richmond, Coke Kendall said.

Coke’s daughter was able to track her mother’s phone to Richmond using the “Find My iPhone app,” her sister said.

“She saw the phone zig-zagging all over the East Bay Area,” Coke Kendall said.

Friends also fanned out around the locations where the phones were discovered with flyers Wednesday.

Among those posting flyers near Coke’s home this afternoon were several of her former and current co-workers.

Joseph Schelsinger, Coke’s longtime friend and co-worker at the federal public defender’s office, said he was stunned to hear of her disappearance.

“That’s just not like Sandra to do something irresponsible and not show up,” he said.

Schelsinger said he doesn’t believe Coke’s disappearance is linked to her role at the public defender’s office, where she investigates criminal death row cases.

As part of her job, Coke frequently interviews defendants’ relatives, friends and doctors in order to gather additional information for a defense case, often traveling across the country, he said.

However, he said in his long career with the public defender’s office, he’s never heard of someone retaliating against an investigator in connection with a criminal case.

“I’ve never felt threatened in any way,” he said.

Coke Kendall said her sister has a large community of legal expert friends who “know their way around an investigation” and are dedicated to finding her.

“We’re hoping for a safe and speedy return but the immediate hope is that law enforcement will not leave any stone unturned and pursue all leads,” said Coke’s longtime friend, Bay Area-based attorney Daniel Abrahamson.

On Wednesday, police officers left Coke’s home with her work laptop and a desktop computer as part of the investigation into her disappearance, her sister said.

They had not shared any new leads with the family as of Wednesday afternoon, she said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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