California man sentenced to death for 1995 killing of O.C. teen dies in cell

Noel Jesse Plata stands next to a wall showing his height
This prison identification photo from the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation shows condemned inmate Noel Jesse Plata.
(Associated Press)

A California man sentenced to death for the 1995 torture slaying of an Orange County teenager died early Monday of unknown causes, prison officials said.

Noel Jesse Plata, 45, was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison before 4 a.m. and pronounced dead about half an hour later despite an employee’s attempt at life-saving measures and outside medical assistance, they said.

No foul play is suspected, but officials said his death was being investigated. The cause of death will be decided by a coroner.


He and an accomplice, Ronald Tri Tran, were sentenced to death for the first-degree murder of Linda Park, 18. The two gang members tortured her into revealing where her family kept its valuables, then strangled her.

Plata was already in prison serving a sentence of life with the possibility of parole for another first-degree murder when he was convicted in Park’s slaying.

There are currently 710 people on California’s death row, the nation’s largest, though Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a moratorium on executions so long as he is governor.