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California death row inmate found dead in cell

California death row inmate found dead in cell
Noel Jesse Plata was sentenced to death for the 1995 gruesome murder of Linda Park, an Irvine Valley College freshman. Photo courtesy of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Dec. 14 (UPI) -- California prison officials said a death row inmate was found dead in his cell early Monday.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement that condemned inmate Noel Jesse Plata, 45, was pronounced dead at 4:37 a.m. Monday, nearly an hour after he was found unresponsive in his San Quentin State Prison cell, prompting staff to perform life-saving measures.

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"Although no foul play is suspected, his death is under investigation and the exact cause of death will be determined by the coroner," the statement said.

Plata and his partner, Ronald Tri Tran, members of a Vietnamese street gang, were sentenced to death in 2008 for the 1995 gruesome murder of Linda Park, an Irvine Valley College freshman.

The pair were convicted of breaking into Park's home and torturing her until she told them where her family held their valuables, which consisted of $500 in cash and about $10,000 in jewelry. They then slit Park's throat and strangled her to death, the Los Angeles Times reported following the sentencing.

Plata was already serving life in prison with parole for first-degree murder when he was convicted of killing Park, California's corrections department said.

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Plata and Tran were admitted to death row on Aug. 26, 2008.

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