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Death row inmate investigator vanishes

  • Sandra Coke, 50, last seen by family on August 4
  • Coke car discovered following night in a parking lot
  • Missing woman investigates death row inmates
Death row inmate investigator vanishes

Authorities in Oakland, California, are searching Friday for a 50-year-old mother and federal investigator of death row inmates.

Sandra Coke, 50, was last seen by her family at her home around 8:30 p.m. on 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 2 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 Schelsinger, Coke’s co-worker at the federal public defender’s office, told KPIX that the missing woman’s work includes interviewing death row inmate’s 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 press release states.

Authorities say the search for the missing woman remains active and they are asking the public for tips in the case.

Coke is described as an African-American female, medium complexion, 5’6” tall, weighing 150 lbs., 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.

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