Imhotep Norman will spend 28 years behind bars, after prosecutors said he left his toddler behind to die in a burning car while evading police in 2019. 

A South Carolina court sentenced Norman to nearly 30 years in prison Tuesday, more than two years after officials said he left his daughter, 19-month-old Xena Rah’Lah Norman, in the back seat of a burning car. 

He had previously pleaded guilty to a half dozen charges related to the incident, according to the Spartanburg County Solicitor’s Office. 

Prosecutors: Imhotep Norman Left Toddler in Burning Car

According to local reports, Norman was driving in Spartanburg, South Carolina on April 12, 2019 with his toddler daughter Xena when state troopers signaled for him to pull over. Police later said the 28-year-old was speeding

Norman reportedly did not stop for the pursuing officers, instead driving over the median into oncoming traffic, apparently to evade capture.

During the chase, smoke and fire began to spew from his vehicle, police said. 

Disturbing video captured by a trooper’s dashboard camera shows Norman’s vehicle appear to disintegrate. Burning debris from the car falls off and tumbles away, but Norman continues to drive for several more minutes. 

When the car rolled to a stop, Norman fled on foot, officers said. He reportedly stopped to throw a backpack into the burning car — but he did not go back to rescue his daughter. 

Police said they were not able to reach Xena Norman until the fire was extinguished. She died at the scene from acute carbon monoxide poisoning and thermal burns, according to WSPA.

The backpack, recovered from the burnt-out remains of Norman’s 2015 Hyundai Sonata, later tested positive for several illicit drugs, police said. 

Norman reportedly fled into a wooded area not far from the scene of the fire. He was apprehended by state troopers a few hours after the pursuit at a traffic stop near USC Upstate, less than a mile from where he left his burning war, local reports indicate. 

He later told investigators he assumed that the pursuing state troopers would rescue his daughter, and that he did not know the car was on fire when he left her behind. 

Imhotep Norman left his car behind when it burst into flames while he was evading South Carolina state troopers. His baby, Xena Norman, died in the fire.
Imhotep Norman left his car behind when it burst into flames while he was evading South Carolina state troopers. His baby, Xena Norman, died in the fire. Photo credit: South Carolina Dept. of Public Safety

“I just know that the car wasn’t on fire when I got out of the car. I would have stayed in that car with my daughter,” he reportedly told the judge at his arraignment in 2019. 

“I would have never got out of 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 where I couldn’t stop,” he said. 

Xena Norman, 19 months old, died in a burning car after police said her father Imhotep Norman left her behind while evading arrest.
Xena Norman, 19 months old, died in a burning car after police said her father Imhotep Norman left her behind while evading arrest. Photo credit: Facebook

Norman Pleaded Guilty to Half Dozen Charges

Before his sentencing Tuesday, Imhotep Norman pleaded guilty to at least six of the charges filed — including homicide by child abuse, failure to stop for a blue light and siren, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, trafficking methamphetamine, possession of amphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of oxycodone, and possession of Xanax, WSPA reported. 

The homicide by child abuse charge has a mandatory minimum 10 year sentence in the state of South Carolina. All of the charges are considered felonies under state law. 

Imhotep Norman, 28, was sentenced to 28 years in prison after prosecutors said he left his toddler, 19-month old Xena Norman, in a burning car while evading police in 2019.
Imhotep Norman, 28, was sentenced to 28 years in prison after prosecutors said he left his toddler, 19-month old Xena Norman, in a burning car while evading police in 2019. Photo credit: Spartantburg County Detention Center

According to local reports, Norman will not be eligible for release from prison until he has served 85 percent — or almost 24 years — of the sentence handed down on Tuesday. 

Though the conviction brings a close to the official investigation, it’s not yet clear what caused the fire that killed Xena Norman.