SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) — Noel Jesse Plata, a Southern California gang member, sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering an 18-year-old college student during a home invasion robbery, was found dead early Monday in his cell at San Quentin.
Plata and Ronald Tri Tran, both members of a Vietnamese gang, were convicted in 2008 for the the 1995 murder of Linda Park, who was a freshman at Irvine Valley College.
She was alone at home when Plata and Tran broke into the residence. They tortured her until she revealed where her family had hidden its valuables. They then beat Park, slit her throat and strangled her before fleeing with about $500 in cash and jewelry worth $10,000.
Prison officials said Plata was found unresponsive in his cell at 3:50 a.m. The staff performed life-saving measures and outside medical assistance was summoned. However, Plata was pronounced dead at the institution at 4:37 a.m.
Although no foul play is suspected, officials said, his death was under investigation and the exact cause of death will be determined by the coroner.
Plata, 45, was admitted to San Quentin from Orange County on May 28, 1999, to serve life with the possibility of parole for first-degree murder with the use of a firearm, attempted first degree murder, and enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury and use of a firearm.
While serving the life term, Plata and Tran were convicted of the Orange County home invasion slaying on Aug. 15, 2008. Plata and Tran were admitted onto death row on Aug. 26, 2008.
There are currently 710 people on California’s death row.