DUBLIN -- Slain federal criminal investigator Sandra Coke and career criminal Randy Alana were a loving couple who shared a home, attended church together the day she went missing and had plans to wed, Alana, the person of interest in her killing, claimed Saturday in a lengthy, exclusive jailhouse interview with this newspaper.
Speaking by telephone from behind a glass partition at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where he is being held on a parole violation, Alana said the pair met while she investigated a capital murder case two decades ago and started a relationship. He repeatedly denied harming Coke who disappeared Aug. 4 from Oakland. Her body was found five days later in Vacaville.
Alana paints a vastly different picture of the pair's relationship than Coke's family, who have said the two briefly dated more than 20 years ago. It also begs the question why Alana received a parole stay-away order, revealed at his Friday parole hearing in Oakland, that attempted to prevent him from seeing Coke. He is accused of violating his state prison parole by having "numerous contacts" with Coke.
"We recently talked about getting married," said Alana, adding that her family and friends largely did not know of his criminal past. He was charged with two separate killings in the 1980s and was paroled from a 15-year robbery sentence in June 2012.
Coke's younger sister, Tanya Coke, disputes all of Alana's claims.
"This is a man with convictions for murder and kidnapping. He was the last person seen with my sister, but claims he has nothing to do with her disappearance and killing," she said in a written statement. "He is clearly someone who thinks nothing of lying and manipulating to serve his purposes. Why would we or anyone else believe what he has to say?"
Since his release last year, Alana admits to violating his parole at least five times, sending him back to Santa Rita where deputies said Saturday morning that Coke, 50, was a "regular visitor" of Alana.
During the interview, Alana said the pair occasionally attended Harmony Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland together on Sundays, including the morning of her disappearance. Interim Harmony pastor Germaine Anderson on Saturday confirmed both Coke and Alana were "visitors" not "members" of the church. He could not confirm that they attended the Aug. 4 morning worship and said he did not know them.
During a 30-minute interview Saturday, the 56-year-old Alana indicated several times by shaking his head that he did not harm or kill Coke and had nothing to do with her disappearance. He said his attorney advised him not to speak to anyone, but he wanted to talk: "I have nothing to hide."
However he declined to speak about what happened after Coke was last seen by her 15-year-old daughter about 8:30 p.m. Aug. 4 after leaving their home in the 600 block of Aileen Street in North Oakland.
"Sunday, Aug. 4 is the day I can't talk to you about for obvious reasons," he said. He declined to speak further on the matter.
Police have said Alana was the last person seen with Coke after she told family she was picking up a prescription and meeting someone with information about her missing dog. Sources said that video has been recovered showing Coke's Mini Cooper crossing the Carquinez Bridge after her disappearance. The car was later discovered in a West Oakland parking lot, and one of her cellphones was found in Richmond last week. Police have not said how she died or offered any more information on a possible link between her death and Alana.
Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson was not available for comment Saturday on Alana's jailhouse interview, which ran the spectrum of emotions.
His eyes wet with tears, Alana jumped between anger over his perceived poor treatment since his arrest -- "I'm being treated like a suspect" -- to claims that he is thankful to even be alive at age 56, to a request for details on Coke's funeral and a copy of her obituary.
He also said he worries about access to his belongings if he's released because they were at Coke's house. "When I'm not here (in jail), I'm there," he said.
Oakland resident Jerry Pittman, 56, said his mother lives next door to Coke's home, and he had done handyman work at her house. He said Alana resurfaced in Coke's life three months ago.
One morning, Pittman said Alana was outside acting "peculiar" and hiding behind cars. "He looked real spacey," Pittman said, and Coke confronted Alana and said, "Face me like a man."
By all accounts, Coke was a loving mother, career woman, caring neighbor and friend.
She worked for the federal public defender's office in Sacramento as an investigator working on mandatory death penalty appeals. The pair met 20 years ago when she interviewed him while he was incarcerated as part of a death penalty investigation, said Alana, who is in solitary lockdown at Santa Rita because he is considered one of the jail's most dangerous inmates.
In 1983, Alameda County prosecutors charged him with beating a young woman to death with a hammer in her North Oakland apartment. He was later acquitted. While in custody awaiting trial for the slaying, Alana and a fellow inmate were accused of fatally stabbing another prisoner. A jury in Alana's trial deadlocked, and he later pleaded no contest to the killing and was sentenced to six years in prison. He is considered a high-risk sex offender, according to a state-run sex offender registry, which lists undated convictions for two counts of rape, kidnapping with intent to commit a sex offense and oral copulation.
Alana has not been named as a suspect in the killing of Coke but with his parole revoked, he stands to be in jail up to 180 days. Alana was arrested on Aug. 6 at a BART station in Pittsburg after a confrontation with officers and police dogs, which left him with large bites on his right thigh and left arm.