OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Authorities made a grim discovery after finding a woman’s body near a Northern California park during an extensive search for a missing federal investigator.
As crews searched for 50-year-old Sandra Coke, Oakland police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson said the body has not been identified and was taken by the Alameda County coroner late Friday.
The discovery was made by Contra Costa County sheriff’s search and rescue teams in a woodsy area near Laguna Valley Park in unincorporated Vacaville Friday afternoon. Crews had already spent Thursday night and Friday morning combing an area near the Solano County Fairgrounds in neighboring Vallejo.
The search for Coke ended suddenly as authorities remained tight-lipped about what led dozens of local, state and federal investigators to the area.
“We are waiting official confirmation on the identity of the body and then, after that, the next process will be to notify the next of kin,” Oakland police Lt. Henderson Jordan told reporters in announcing the discovery.
Coke, a capital case investigator for the federal public defender’s office in Sacramento, was last seen in Oakland on Sunday.
On Thursday, Oakland police identified Coke’s former boyfriend, Randy Alana, as a person of interest in the case. He and Coke were seen together Sunday, police said.
Alana, 56, of Oakland, a registered sex offender, was arrested on an unspecified parole violation on Tuesday.
“We are looking at an angle to see if foul play was involved,” Watson said.
Coke left her Oakland home shortly after 8:30 p.m. Sunday after reportedly telling her 15-year-old daughter she was meeting with someone who had found her missing dog.
Coke said she would be back in 30 minutes. Her daughter called police when her mother did not come home that night.
A family friend, Laura Burstein, said Coke dated Alana more than 20 years ago. Another friend, Dan Abrahamson, told KGO-TV, that Alana recently reappeared in the area and reached out to Coke for help.
Alana was being held without bail. He is considered a high-risk sex offender, with state records showing he has convictions for rape and kidnapping.
Dozens of Coke’s family and friends announced a $100,000 reward on Thursday for any information leading to her return.
“These last few days have been a living nightmare,” said her sister, Tanya Coke-Kendall, who believes foul play may be involved.
Calls to Tanya Coke-Kendall on Friday were not immediately returned. Earlier, Sandra Coke’s family released a statement hoping for her return.
“We are enormously grateful for the efforts of everyone — law enforcement, colleagues and friends of Sandra, and members of the public and the media — who have labored day and night to find Sandra,” the statement read.
Police found Coke’s 2007 Mini Cooper convertible on Monday, just a few blocks from her home and her cellphones were discovered near Interstate 80 in Richmond and near the Oakland-Emeryville border.
As an investigator, Coke was assigned to probe capital cases that are appealed to federal court to ensure death sentences are fair.