A judge ruled today that prosecutors produced sufficient evidence at a six-day-long preliminary hearing to have career criminal Randy Alana stand trial on a charge that he murdered federal public defender investigator Sandra Coke in August. According to evidence presented at the hearing, Alana, 56, who has 17 prior felony convictions, including for manslaughter, and Coke, 50, knew each other for about 20 years and had a 15-year-old daughter together. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon said the fact that Alana had Coke’s phone, credit card and car after she was reported missing from her Oakland home on Aug. 4 and cellphone records placed him in the vicinity of where her body was found at a park in Vacaville five days later convinced him that Alana appears to be the person who killed her.
In making his ruling, Reardon rejected the argument of Alana’s lawyer, David Bryden, who said Alana shouldn’t stand trial on any charges because he believes the prosecution’s case is only based on “conjecture and speculation.” Bryden said no one saw Alana with Coke after she disappeared, there’s no direct evidence linking him to her death and no evidence “that this crime was committed by him.” Bryden said prosecutor Colleen McMahon failed to provide evidence answering several key questions in the case, such as, “Where does he (Alana) kill her (Coke) and how does he transport her in a way that no one can see her.” The defense attorney told Reardon, “You just don’t have enough to force my client to face the murder charge.” Bryden also said Alana shouldn’t stand trial on a charge that he unlawfully took Coke’s vehicle and two counts of grand theft for allegedly using her debit card because she had been providing financial assistance to him after he was released from prison in 2012.
Reardon said that although the exact location where Coke was killed hasn’t been shown, the circumstantial evidence in the case shows “it’s clear it was in Oakland” sometime between 8:30 p.m. and midnight on Aug. 4. The judge said “it’s an interesting legal issue” if Alana can be prosecuted for allegedly taking her car and using her debit card after she was dead but he still ordered that Alana stand trial on those charges, saying that the issue should be addressed at a trial, not at a preliminary hearing, where the standard of proof is lower. The question is whether someone can be “a victim of crimes posthumously,” Reardon said. Oakland police Officer Steven Bang, the last witness in the preliminary hearing, testified today that the 15-year-old daughter of Coke and Alana reported Coke missing at 10:34 p.m. on Aug. 4 after a woman had called the daughter to report that she had found Coke’s work cellphone at 62nd Street and Market Street in North Oakland. According to a probable cause statement Bang filed when Alana was charged, that location is consistent with the direction Coke’s car was traveling that night and Alana’s GPS tracking data.
Bang testified that the daughter told him that Coke had left their home at 639 Aileen St. in Oakland at about 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 4 and then called her daughter about five minutes later to report that she was with Alana and they were looking for Coke’s missing dog. 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. However, prosecutors didn’t develop enough evidence to charge Alana with murdering Coke and taking her car and using her debit card until Oct. 17. An autopsy conducted by the Alameda County coroner’s bureau found that Coke died of asphyxia and compression of the neck. In addition to manslaughter, Alana’s prior convictions include kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, rape and forced oral copulation. His manslaughter conviction stems from the stabbing death of his fellow inmate and reputed gang colleague Al Ingram, 40, at an Alameda County jail in June 1984. Alana is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 26 to have a trial date set.