South Carolina man sentenced to 28 years in prison for leaving 19-month-old daughter to die in burning car

Spartanburg authorities said Imhotep Norman left his 19-month-old daughter in a burning car while being pursued by police in April 2019.

By Amir Vera and Sharif Paget, CNN

(CNN) -- A South Carolina man was sentenced to 28 years in prison Tuesday after he fled from a burning car and left his 19-month-old daughter to die in the blaze in order to escape a police chase, according to a news release from the Spartanburg County Solicitor's Office.

State troopers tried to stop Imhotep O. Norman, 28, in April 2019 for speeding, the release said. Norman drove over a median and onto Interstate 85 with flames and heavy smoke spewing from his car, the release said.

After troopers forced him to the right lane of the road, Norman jumped out of the burning vehicle and left his daughter, Xena R. Norman, in her car seat, the release said. Norman later told investigators he thought law enforcement officials would rescue her, according to the release.

Norman's daughter died due to acute carbon monoxide poisoning and thermal burns, the release said.

Norman told the judge during his first bond hearing in 2019 that he did not know the car was on fire when he got out, according to CNN affiliate WHNS.

"I just know that the car wasn't on fire when I got out the car," Norman said. "I would have stayed in that car with my daughter. I would have never got out the car while the car was on fire. I seen sparks coming from under the tires when I tried to stop and I couldn't stop at that point. I don't know why what happened to the car were I couldn't stop."

Norman pleaded guilty to homicide by child abuse, failure to stop for a blue light and siren, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, trafficking methamphetamine and possession of with intent to distribute amphetamine, possession of oxycodone, and possession of xanax, the release said.

Norman's lawyer, Randy Chambers, tells CNN his client intended to go to trial, but said that "for whatever reason, he (Norman) had a revelation to take responsibility for what happened."

He said Norman was absolutely "heartbroken by the death of his daughter." He added that after two years of representing Norman, he got the impression his client was "intelligent, thoughtful" and "a good person who really made a bad choice" when he decided to flee from police. Chambers indicated to CNN that Norman didn't have any priors before this incident.

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