A man has been indicted on arson and insurance fraud charges after police got hold of readings from his pacemaker that called his alibi into question.
Last September, firefighters in Middletown, Ohio, were called to a blaze gutting Ross Compton's house. The 59-year-old chap told police the fire broke out indoors, and that he managed to break a window with his walking stick, throw some hastily packed bags out to safety, and finally flee the inferno. He also has an artificial heart with a pump attached. The insurer's bill for the damage stood at about $400,000.
According to court documents obtained by journalists, officers grew suspicious after fire investigators found, within the remains of the 2,000-sq ft property, evidence that the blaze was started at various spots, suggesting it was deliberate.
They also found traces of gasoline on Compton's shoes, trousers, and shirt. And he allegedly told the cops a slightly different story to the one he gave the 911 operator when he called in the emergency.
Compton mentioned to investigators he had a pacemaker implanted, so the cops got a search warrant to obtain the heart rate and cardiac rhythms recorded by the device before, during, and after the fire broke out. They showed the readings to a cardiologist who concluded it was "highly improbable" that Compton was telling the truth, because the figures demonstrated he was not fit enough to make his daring escape.
Specifically, the medic wrote in a statement submitted to the court: “It is highly improbable Mr Compton would have been able to collect, pack and remove the number of items from the house, exit his bedroom window and carry numerous large and heavy items to the front of his residence during the short period of time he has indicated due to his medical conditions.”
"It was one of the key pieces of evidence that allowed us to charge him," said Lieutenant Jimmy Cunningham. The evidence of arson and, oh yeah, the gasoline apparently soaking his clothes probably took pole and second position in the inquiry, admittedly.
Our snark aside, this was the first time the cops had used pacemaker data in this way. The case raises some interesting new lines of inquiry for all police forces probing alleged crimes by people with the life-giving gadgets. (How exactly the search warrant in this case was executed, we're in the process of figuring out.)
Compton, who was cuffed on January 27, said the charges were "utterly insane."
"This investigation has gone way out of control," he told telly station WLWT5. "I had no motive whatsoever to burn down my house."
He is due to be arraigned for trial next month. ®