|For Immediate Release
Case # 01HF0193
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
GANG MEMBERS SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR TORTURING AND MURDERING 18-YEAR-OLD GIRL
IN HOME INVASION ROBBERY
SANTA ANA – Two members of a Vietnamese criminal street gang were sentenced to death today for torturing and murdering an 18-year-old girl in an Irvine home invasion robbery. Ronald Tri Tran, 33, and Noel Jesse Plata, 33, both of Santa Ana, were found guilty on Oct. 23, 2007, of murder with special circumstances allegations for murder during the commission of a robbery, murder during the commission of a burglary, and torture. There is also a special circumstances allegation against Plata for having a 1996 murder conviction. The jury also found true a sentencing enhancement for committing murder for the benefit of a criminal street gang. Tran has a prior strike conviction for a 1994 residential burglary and Plata has a prior strike conviction for a 1993 robbery when he was a juvenile. A jury recommended on Nov. 5, 2007, that the defendants receive the death penalty.
On Nov. 9, 1995, Tran and Plata planned a robbery at the home of 18-year-old Linda Park, a high school friend of Tran’s girlfriend. They believed Park had cash because her father owned a business. Tran and Plata drove to Irvine Valley College, where Tran’s girlfriend was attending a night class. They borrowed her car, as it would be more discreet than taking Tran’s older car into the Park’s neighborhood on Blazing Star in Irvine. The defendants drove to the victim’s home, knocked, and entered after Park opened the door. Park was home alone while her father was at his business and her mother was working at the post office.
Tran and Plata tortured the victim by slashing her throat to force her to tell them where the family valuables were kept. They stole items from the house that were kept in specific and hidden locations, including jewelry belonging to Park’s mother from a jewelry box and cash from the pocket of a jacket belonging to the victim’s father. The jewelry box was left near the victim’s body and the rest of the home was undisturbed. Tran and Plata then murdered the victim before fleeing the house to keep her from identifying them.
The victim’s father returned home at approximately 8:00 p.m. to find his murdered daughter face down on the floor in the living room. She had been bound around the ankles, her hands were tied behind her back, and her throat had been slashed twice. An electrical cord was wrapped around her neck, which had been used to strangle her.
The case remained unsolved until 1999, when District Attorney Investigators received new evidence linking Tran and Plata to the murder. Charges were filed against the defendants on Feb. 28, 2001.
During the sentencing, a statement was read on behalf of Park’s mother. She explained that when Linda was only 7-months-old, she had promised herself that she would “never leave [her] children, no matter how hard things became.” With Linda’s murder, her mother expressed that her days are “filled with uncontrollable grief” and “despair.” Linda’s mother said her family has refused to move from the home where Linda was killed because she “felt like Linda would run through the front door any day, and if [they] moved, she would not be able to find [them]. [They] are still in a sense, although it is not possible, waiting for Linda to come back.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.