OAKLAND (BCN) — Career criminal Randy Alana admitted Monday that less than two months before his girlfriend, Sandra Coke, was strangled in August 2013 he told her he hoped that she would die.
But in his third and final day of testimony in his murder trial in Alameda County Superior Court, Alana, 58, who has 17 felony convictions, said he didn’t mean it.
“We do say things we don’t mean when we’re angry,” Alana said, referring to the comments he made to Coke in a phone call on May 9, 2013, that was recorded by authorities at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
Alana said he was upset at Coke because she had helped put him behind bars again by calling his parole agent to report that he had violated his parole by stealing her car, stealing her daughter’s expensive headphones and taking her beloved dog Ginny, a black cocker spaniel.
Alana, who wore a gray suit and a striped tie and chose his words carefully, said some of the things that Coke wrote in an 11-page statement to his parole agent “had some basis of truth” but alleged that she “wrote a lot of things that aren’t true.”
He said, “She got mad at me to get me in trouble.”
Coke, 50, who worked at the federal public defender’s office in Sacramento, disappeared from her Oakland home on Aug. 4, 2013, and was found dead in Vacaville five days later.
Coke and Alana met in 1993 when he was in custody and she interviewed him on behalf of a death row inmate for whom she was working. They have a daughter who was born in 1998.
Alana, whose prior convictions include manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, assault and forced oral copulation, was paroled from state prison in June 2012.
According to testimony in his trial, which began on March 17 and is now nearing its end, Alana and Coke had an on-and-off relationship but rekindled it in January 2013.
Prosecutor Colleen McMahon alleged in her opening statement that Alana had the motive, means and opportunity to kill Coke, saying, “The one thing you don’t do to Randy Alana is call the police on him.”
McMahon also told jurors that she believes he strangled Coke in the back seat of her car in a secluded parking area at the Nights Inn Motel at 874 W. MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland the night of Aug. 4, 2013.
He had been released three days earlier from the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where he had been serving time for his parole violation.
In testimony last Thursday, Alana admitted that he was with Coke in her car in the parking lot at the Nights Inn that night but said he didn’t kill her and said the reason they went there was to meet with someone who had information about Coke’s missing dog.
Alana, who admitted that he was frequently unfaithful to Coke and had been a heavy crack cocaine user, said the last time he saw Coke alive was later that night when they went to a location outside a drug house in Richmond to meet with people who supposedly had information about her dog.
Alana said Coke had told him to drive her car to a nearby ATM machine to withdraw cash to pay someone who could help find her dog, but when he returned Coke wasn’t there anymore.
In cross-examining Alana today, McMahon alleged that he killed Coke the night of Aug. 4, 2013, because “she was done with” him and wasn’t going to give him money anymore but he said that wasn’t true.
McMahon also expressed doubt about what she described as his “story” about what happened that night.
When the prosecutor asked Alana who he and Coke met with at the parking lot at the Nights Inn Motel, he couldn’t cite any names and couldn’t remember how many people were involved.
Alana said, “I never count. Four to seven would be my estimate.”
Alana also said he couldn’t remember the location of the drug house in Richmond where he said he and Coke met with people or the number of people with whom Coke spoke.
Alana said he was extremely distraught when he found out that Coke’s dead body was identified on Aug. 12, 2013, but admitted that five days later he flirted with a female news reporter who interviewed him in his jail cell.
“I was flirting, that’s one of my character flaws,” Alana said.
Judge Larry Goodman, who is presiding over the case, told jurors that there will be one final witness on Tuesday morning and McMahon and defense attorney Al Wax will present their closing arguments on May 18.
The jury was already scheduled to take a break the week of May 11 and Goodman said he didn’t want the closing arguments to be presented before the break.