A 1-year-old girl died in a burning car when her father got out and ran away during a pursuit on Interstate 85, according to South Carolina law enforcement officials.
The deadly incident began around 10:20 p.m. Friday on S.C. 14 in Greenville County, where a state trooper tried to stop a car for speeding, according to Capt. Kelley Hughes of the S.C. Highway Patrol. The car was doing 67 in a 45 mph zone at the time, Hughes said.
The car continued onto Interstate 85, traveling north, Hughes said. During the pursuit, the trooper noticed smoke and sparks coming from the undercarriage of the car that later turned into flames.
Troopers attempted a rolling road block, and the burning car slowed to a stop around mile marker 60, Hughes said. The driver jumped out of the car and ran away as it slowed to a stop.
Firefighters arrived to extinguish the burning car and found a body in the back seat, Hughes said.
Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said the body was that of 1-year-old Xena Rah’Lah Norman, of Spartanburg, according to WYFF.
SLED agents and a K-9 team later located the driver, 26-year-old Imhotep Osiris Norman, of Greenville, according to Hughes. A bag thrown from the vehicle during the case was located and found to contain illegal drugs, Hughes said.
Norman is charged with one count of homicide by child abuse, according to warrants from the State Law Enforcement Division. He remains jailed in the Spartanburg County Detention Center. There was no word on charges for the bag of drugs thrown from the car.
Homicide by child abuse carries a minimum of 20 years in prison and up to life, under South Carolina law.
“I just know that the car wasn’t on fire when I got out the car. I would have stayed in that car with my daughter,” Norman said during a Saturday bond hearing, according to FOX Carolina. “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.”
The little girl’s grandmother addressed the court during the hearing, voicing her support for Norman, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
“He would have died for her,” Christina Palmer said, according to the newspaper. “I don’t believe what they are saying. He would have saved his baby.”
A GoFundMe page has been started to help cover funeral expenses for the toddler.
“This situation I am facing has affected my ENTIRE LIFE!” Thaisha Young, Xena’s mother, wrote on the fundraiser page. “How could God take such a beautiful loving child and take my baby XENA from me?”