OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU and wires) -- Career criminal Randy Alana denied Wednesday that he killed federal public defender investigator Sandra Coke in August 2013, saying he was hoping to rekindle his relationship with her despite their ups and downs.
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.
Prosecutor Colleen McMahon alleges that Alana, who had been released from state prison in June 2012, was upset at Coke because she had helped put him behind bars again on May 9, 2013, 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.
McMahon alleges that Alana, 58, who has 17 felony convictions including manslaughter, kidnapping, assault and rape, strangled Coke in the back seat of her car in a secluded parking area at a motel in Oakland on Aug. 4, 2013, three days after he was released from the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin where he had been serving time for his parole violation.
In his first answers to a full day of questions by his lawyer, Al Wax, Alana said he didn't kill Coke and doesn't know who did.
Even though he was on the witness stand for more than four hours, Alana, who was dressed in a gray suit, wore glasses and spoke in a low voice, didn't discuss the alleged events of Aug. 4, 2013.
Instead, Wax had him speak at length about his on-again, off-again relationship with Coke, who Alana met in 1993 while he was in custody at Santa Rita and she was working as an investigator for an attorney who was trying to stop the execution of serial killer David Mason.
Alana had lived in a group home with Mason when they were teenagers and Coke was interviewing people who had known Mason, he said.
Alana said he was "flirtatious" when he first met Coke and they soon fell in love and became intimate.
Alana said he was in state prison in 1998 when Coke gave birth to their daughter, who testified earlier in his trial and is described in court as "Jane Doe."
Alana said Coke would bring their daughter along with her when she visited him in prison but stopped bringing the daughter after the daughter turned three because she had read an article that said children of incarcerated parents were less likely to succeed.
He said Coke also didn't want Jane Doe to remember that he was in jail.
Alana testified that he took Coke off his list of approved guests at the prison because, "I was so affected by her ripping my daughter away from me like that."
However, Alana said he and Coke stayed in touch through letters and phone calls until he was released from prison in 2012.
But he said his relationship with Coke was "complicated" because she didn't want anyone close to her to know that he was incarcerated.
Alana said things went well for a while when he and Coke rekindled their relationship in January 2013 but then soured after he started using crack cocaine and spending a lot of money.
Alana admitted that he took advantage of Coke's generosity and began stealing her money and items such as bicycles to support his drug habit but he said in his mind he was borrowing from her and planned to pay her back.
Alana admitted that he was upset at Coke when he was put in jail after she contacted his parole officer but said he eventually forgave her.
"Time heals all wounds," Alana said.
In a July 16, 2013, phone call that was recorded by jail officials and played in court today by Wax, Alana told Coke, "I want to marry you because I love you."
When Coke visited him in jail on July 27, 2013, in a meeting that was recorded by jail officials, Alana told her, "I want to be with you and be able to hold you in my arms forever."
An inmate who was at the Santa Rita Jail with Alana in the summer of 2013 testified earlier in Alana's trial that Alana told him he had killed Coke's dog, Ginny, and put her in plastic bags and dumped her at a landfill.
But Alana said Wednesday that the inmate's testimony was a "lie" and claimed he didn't kill the dog.
Alana is expected to discuss the events of Aug. 4, 2013, when Wax resumes questioning him on Thursday morning. McMahon is expected to begin cross-examining him later in the day.