Oakland police on Tuesday identified the female body found near the base of a tree in Northern California as that of slain federal public defender Sandra Coke.
Most had expected that positive identification after the 50-year-old Oakland woman's body was discovered in Vacaville near Cherry Glen Road off Interstate Highway 80 on Friday. Authorities have still not revealed how she died.
Her family says they are devastated by the news, calling Coke the "shining light" of their family. They also thanked the hundreds of people who helped search for Sandra.
"Those of us who were privileged to know Sandra will remember her as an unusually kind, generous and big-hearted person. She passionately devoted her professional life to helping the poor and those who endured difficult childhoods. All of us will miss Sandra’s beautiful, giving spirit," the family statement read.
After Coke disappeared, police arrested a "person of interest" in the case on a parole violation – a violent sex offender named Randy Alana, who dated Coke 20 years ago.
As of Tuesday, Alana had still not been named as a suspect in her death.
Coke worked at the federal building in Sacramento and was a longtime investigator.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued the following statement regarding her death: “All of us in the federal court family are deeply saddened by the death of our colleague and co-worker. Sandra Coke was an admired and respected professional working in a highly challenging area of the law. She was passionate about her work, devoted to her clients and colleagues, and performed her duties with fairness and integrity. She will be greatly missed. Our hearts go out to her family.”
Coke had been missing since Aug. 4 when her daughter last saw her about 8:30 p.m. leaving her home in the 600 block of Aileen Street in North Oakland. She had gone to Walgreens, her family said, despite reports that said she had been going to meet with someone about the family's missing dog.
Her car was later found in West Oakland, and one of her cell phones was found in Richmond last week.
A police source told NBC Bay Area Coke's other cell phone was tracked to Solano County. Coke's sister said earlier this week that Coke's teenage daughter used the “Find My iPhone” app Sunday night.
A police source said surveillance cameras captured Coke's car crossing the Carquinez Bridge. The source said another surveillance camera showed Alana gassing up her car and using her ATM card.
The source said Alana, who has been arrested on a parole violation, was found with Coke's keys and her credit card. He also had on muddy boots.
Alana is a high-risk sex offender with a violent past, including rape and kidnapping convictions. He has been in and out of jail since the 1980s.
Sources confirmed Alana and Coke dated more than 20 years ago. They said she was recently trying to help him turn his life around.
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