A preliminary hearing is under way in Alameda County Superior Court today for Randy Alana, the man accused of murdering Oakland resident Sandra Coke in August. Prosecutors this morning called several witnesses to the stand who painted a picture of a decades-long relationship between 56-year-old Alana and Coke, 50, who was an investigator for the federal public defender’s office in Sacramento. 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 at about 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 this 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 this 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. When Alana was let out of prison, 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. Another nephew of Alana’s, 47-year-old Carlton Duncan, testified that he had been giving Alana about $400 a month to help him out after his release from prison.
He said he had met Coke twice, and had spoken with her on the phone in the spring about her 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 him self and seemed to be suicidal. Testimony is continuing this afternoon 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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