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California woman, 50, who disappeared mysteriously confirmed dead

By Amanda Watts and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 11:06 AM EDT, Thu August 15, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sandra Coke, 50, was reported missing by her family on August 4
  • She'd told her daughter she was going to a drugstore, never returned
  • Her remains were found last week in Solano County, California, police say
  • She was "a shining light in our family," the Coke family says

(CNN) -- A 50-year-old California woman reported missing more than a week ago -- having last told her teenage daughter she was heading to a nearby drugstore -- was found dead, police said.

The Oakland Police Department said Tuesday in an e-mail that the Alameda County coroner's office has identified the remains of a woman found Friday in Solano County, which is between Sacramento and San Francisco, as those of Sandra Coke.

Coke, who worked as an investigator in the Federal Public Defender's Office in Sacramento, was reported missing by her family on August 4.

"She was a loving mother, daughter, sister and auntie, and a shining light in our family; her good cheer, easy laugh and generous hugs will be missed," her family said Tuesday in a statement. "Those of us who were privileged to know Sandra will remember her as an unusually kind, generous and big-hearted person."

Reports on a Facebook site tied to the family noted that Coke had gone to an Oakland drugstore intending to meet someone she thought had information about her missing dog.

Her 15-year-old daughter called Coke's longtime friend, Wendy Springer, hours later when her mother hadn't returned home. Her car -- a 2007 Mini Cooper convertible -- was found in a parking lot the next day.

"She would never have left her daughter for more than 15 minutes and not checked in," Springer told reporters Thursday.

That day, family members announced a $100,000 reward for information that would lead to Coke. They also spearheaded efforts to canvass the northern California city that she called home.

According to Oakland police, Coke had been in good mental and physical health with no history of being reported missing.

News of her death spurred an outpouring of condolences, including from Democratic campaign strategist Christine Pelosi and Natasha Minsker, a local ACLU leader who tweeted that Coke "will be missed by many."

The grief was palpable in the statement from Coke's family, who hailed her impact professionally and personally on many people.

"She passionately devoted her professional life to helping the poor and those who endured difficult childhoods," the family said. "All of us will miss Sandra's beautiful, giving spirit."

CNN's Dana Ford contributed to this report.

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