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Prosecutor: Person Of Interest In Sandra Coke Case Was In Prison Gang

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Randy Alana has been questioned in the disappearance of Sandra Coke. (CBS)

Randy Alana has been questioned in the disappearance of Sandra Coke. (CBS)

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The man described by Oakland police as a person interest in the death of Oakland woman Sandra Coke was recalled by a former prosecutor Tuesday as a good-looking career criminal with charm who belonged to a prison gang.

Randy Alana, 56, who has previous convictions for manslaughter, kidnapping, robbery and rape, is “very cunning” and “a manipulator,” said Russ Giuntini, who was a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for 26 years and chief assistant district attorney in San Francisco for six and a half years.

Coke, 50, an investigator for the federal public defender’s office in San Francisco, was last seen by her daughter when she left her home in the 600 block of Aileen Street in Oakland around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 4.

Her body was found in a park in Vacaville on Friday and she was formally identified by authorities Tuesday.

Oakland police said Coke had dated Alana in the distant past and they believe he was with her on the night she disappeared.

Alana currently is in custody at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on his alleged parole violation in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Friday.

Giuntini, who now is an attorney with the Rains Lucia Stern law firm in Pleasant Hill, which represents police officers, said he prosecuted Alana in two separate murder cases in the 1980s but Alana wasn’t convicted of murder in either case.

In the first case, Alana was charged with murdering Marilyn Pigott, 23, who was found beaten to death with a hammer in her apartment in North Oakland on Aug. 13, 1983.

Giuntini said jurors deadlocked 9-3 in favor of convicting Alana of murder in his first trial but acquitted him of that charge in his second trial. He said the witnesses in the case were “street types” that jurors apparently had a difficult time believing and there was no direct evidence against Alana.

Giuntini said Alana was only convicted of receiving stolen property for taking Piggott’s ring.

In the second case, Alana and James Hodari Benson were accused of fatally stabbing fellow inmate Al Ingram, 40, at an Alameda County jail in June 1984.

Giuntini said all three men belonged to the Black Guerilla Family prison gang and Alana and Benson suspected that Ingram was a police informant but that wasn’t true.

Benson was convicted of murder and is still in state prison but Alana wasn’t convicted of that charge and later pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to six years in state prison, Giuntini said.

Alana himself was a crime victim when a Black Guerilla Family member, Michael Cooperwood, shot him in the head in Oakland, according to Giuntini.

Oakland police officers who found Alana in the street thought he was dead but he told them, “Oh no I’m not,” Giuntini said.

Copoperwood was convicted of attempted murder for the shooting, he said.

Giuntini said Alana was later convicted of robbery and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison because of his lengthy criminal record but was released last year.

Giuntini said Alana “was good looking” and tried to appear to be “a good guy” when he was in front of jurors during his trials.

(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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