California death row inmate defense investigator missing

Story highlights

  • Sandra Coke, 50, was last seen by her family on August 4
  • Coke's car was discovered the following night in a parking lot
  • The missing woman worked to aid the defense of death row inmates
Authorities in Oakland, California, are searching for a 50-year-old mother who also is a federal investigator of death row inmates.
Sandra Coke, 50, was last seen by her family at her Oakland home around 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
Before she vanished, Coke, who works at the Sacramento Federal Public Defender's Office, told her daughter she was meeting someone with information about the family's missing dog and said she would return in 30 minutes.
However, Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson told reporters that Coke was seen the night she vanished with a man her family says she dated about two decades ago. The man has an extensive criminal record, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
A missing person report was filed later that night after the mother failed to return home.
Coke's 2007 Mini Cooper convertible was discovered the following night in a parking lot approximately two miles from her home, police said.
Authorities also found two of Coke's cell phones in different locations, according to HLN affiliate KPIX.
Watson said local and federal investigators began searching for Coke in the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo with dogs trained to detect human remains. A Solano County sheriff's spokesman declined to say if police believe the missing woman is still alive.
Joseph Schlesinger, one of Coke's co-workers at the federal public defender's office, told KPIX that the missing woman's work includes interviewing death row inmates' relatives and friends to gather information for a defense case.
Coke was "reported to be in good mental and physical condition and has no history of being reported missing," an Oakland Police Department news release states.
Coke is described as an African-American female, medium complexion, 5-foot-6, weighing 150 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a black-and-white shirt and dark jeans.
Anyone with information about her disappearance is encouraged to contact the Oakland Police Department Missing Persons Section at 510-238-3641.
There is a $100,000 reward for any information leading to Coke's return.