OAKLAND (CBS SF) – An Oakland man accused of murdering federal investigator Sandra Coke in August appeared in Alameda County Superior Court Monday for the start of the case’s preliminary hearing.
The prosecution called several witnesses to the stand throughout the day, including two relatives of Randy Alana, 56, who detailed the decades-long relationship between Coke and Alana.
Coke was an investigator for the federal public defender’s office in Sacramento and lived in Oakland with her 15-year-old daughter.
Alana sat in court Monday in red prison garb, wearing eyeglasses and appeared to be in good spirits, laughing occasionally and smiling while talking to his attorney.
He did not speak to the court.
Alana’s nephew, 39-year-old Andrew Gross, who works for Caltrans in the Sacramento area, said Alana and Coke have a daughter together—the same daughter who called and reported Coke missing the night she disappeared.
He said the daughter has attended family functions with Coke and was at the funeral for Alana’s mother, who died in May.
Police have said that Coke’s 15-year-old daughter called police around 1 a.m. on Aug. 5 to report that her mother had left their home on Aileen Street several hours earlier and had not returned.
Coke’s body was found in a park in Vacaville on Aug. 9. She had been strangled.
Oakland police Officer Bryan Glick testified Monday morning about his conversation with Coke’s daughter on the night of the disappearance.
“She seemed a little tired, concerned. It was her mom,” Glick testified.
He said the daughter had told him that her mother had left to go to the store at about 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 4, then called back later that night to say that she was with Randy and was going out to look for their missing dog, a black cocker spaniel named Jenny who disappeared in April.
The daughter said she had used an app on her iPhone to track her mother’s iPhone to Richmond.
When Gross testified later in the morning, he said Coke was “very, very protective” of her daughter. “She was close to her,” he said.
Gross said he was the one to pick up Alana from a state prison in Southern California when he was released in July 2012 after serving a lengthy prison term.
Alana’s prior convictions include voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, rape and forced oral copulation. The manslaughter conviction was for the fatal stabbing of a fellow Alameda County jail inmate in 1984, a former prosecutor said.
Alana, who was arrested Aug. 6 for Coke’s death, is now charged with murder, as well as two counts of grand theft for using her debit card and unlawfully taking her car.
The prosecution showed surveillance footage from the evening of Aug. 4, which included scenes of a man walking into a gas station convenience store on Shattuck Avenue and 52nd Street in Oakland, and purchasing what looked like a can of beer.
Another camera at an Oakland business on Market and 44th streets showed a white colored car that resembled a Mini Cooper driving down Market Street later that evening.
Coke had a white Mini Cooper and had left her home the night of her disappearance in that car. It was later found abandoned in West Oakland.
When Alana was let out of prison in July 2012, Gross drove him back to Oakland and dropped him off at a hotel on Hegenberger Road, Gross testified.
Between then and August, Gross testified, they had spoken about three times a week. Gross said he didn’t give Alana any money, fearing he would spend the money on drugs.
He said Coke had come to visit Alana in the hospital in the early 1990s after Alana was injured in a shooting. That was when Gross had first met her.
Gross told the court he had heard from Coke and Alana a day after her birthday, Aug. 1. The two were apparently together looking for her missing dog at a kennel.
On Aug. 4 Gross spoke to the pair, who said they were heading to church.
On Aug. 5 Gross’s sister told him Coke and Alana were missing, but Gross said he told her that he had spoken to them over the weekend.
Gross then called Alana, who asked his nephew for some money and a gun after Gross told him that everyone was looking for him.
Gross said Alana told him that “he wanted to get away” and spoke about not wanting to go back to jail.
“He wasn’t really listening to me,” Gross said, and when he asked about Coke, Alana allegedly ignored the question—repeatedly.
Gross said Alana also told Gross that he needed money and would rob a bank if necessary.
When Gross reiterated that everyone was looking for him, Gross said Alana’s demeanor changed and he sounded “distraught.”
Gross said Alana went on a rant about not wanting to get arrested, and mentioned that he didn’t know where Coke was and that she possibly was “somewhere with Jenny.”
“I thought, ‘this could be bad,'” Gross said, which was when he contacted a friend from Oakland police. Arrangements were made to find Alana by using Gross to pinpoint his location.
Alana was then arrested on Aug. 6 on suspicion of a parole violation.
Another nephew of Alana’s, 47-year-old Carlton Duncan, testified that he had been giving Alana some money each month, totaling to about $400 since his release from prison.
He said he had met Coke twice, and had spoken with her on the phone in the spring about the missing dog. Coke had referred to herself as Alana’s girlfriend, Duncan testified.
Asked by Deputy District Attorney Colleen McMahon about Alana and Coke’s relationship and whether they have a child together, Duncan replied, “Yes, they have a girl, a daughter, together.”
Duncan testified that Alana had called him in early August and said he needed $200 and a gun. Duncan said he didn’t sound like himself and seemed to be suicidal.
Testimony is continuing Tuesday morning in the preliminary hearing, which will allow a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold Alana for trial.
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