SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) — Death Row inmate Royce L. Scott, condemned for the brutal rape and murder of a 78-year-old woman in her Palm Springs home in 1992, has died while being treated for an undisclosed medical illness, state prison officials announced Tuesday.
Scott had been transferred from San Quentin’s Death Row to an outside hospital for treatment when he succumbed to his illness on Sunday night. His cause of death was unknown pending the results of an autopsy. However, foul play was not suspected.
Scott is the third Death Row inmate to die in a week.
On Dec. 19th, James Odle — condemned to death nearly four decades ago for killing Pinole Police Officer Floyd “Bernie” Swartz during a shootout — also died of natural causes while being treated at an outside hospital.
Odle was sentenced to death in Contra Costa County in August 1983 for the first-degree murders of Swartz and Rena Aguilar. He also was convicted of vehicle theft, assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and weapons possession.
According to the state Supreme Court, Odle beat Aguilar with a tire iron, stabbed and strangled her because he was afraid she would “snitch” that he had stolen a van that he and others used for a day-long beer-drinking party.
Swartz died three days later when he was hit by a single bullet from Odle’s sawed-off rifle during the first of two shootouts with police before Odle was arrested.
On Dec. 15th, 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 in his cell at San Quentin.
Plata and Ronald Tri Tran, both members of a Vietnamese gang, were convicted in 2008 for 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.
California has not executed an inmate since Clarence Ray Allen was put to death in 2006. Gov. Gavin Newsom has put in place a moratorium on executions, but illnesses including COVID and old age has led to the deaths of at least 16 Death Row inmates his year.
There are currently 709 people on California’s death row.