A man charged with arson based partly on data collected from his pacemaker pleaded not guilty Tuesday to setting his Ohio home on fire and insurance fraud charges, the AP reports. Authorities have said gasoline was found on Ross Compton's clothing and that the fire started in multiple places, but Lt. Jimmy Cunningham told WLWT-TV the medical data represented some of "the key pieces of evidence." Compton told authorities when he saw the fire Sept. 19 inside his Middletown home, he packed some belongings in a suitcase and bags, broke a window with his cane, and threw the items through the window before carrying them to his car, per cops. He also said he had a cardiac pacemaker, authorities say. Court records show police got a search warrant to retrieve electronic data stored on the device.
A pacemaker monitors the heart and helps control irregular heart rhythms. The information is recorded and can be retrieved for analysis. The data on Compton's device included his heart rate, pacer demand, and cardiac rhythms before, during, and after the fire, police said. A cardiologist determined it was "highly improbable," due to his medical conditions, that Compton could do all the collecting, packing, and removal of items from his house and then carry them in the short period of time he indicated, according to court records. Police have said statements they received from Compton were "inconsistent" with the evidence they gathered. The case has raised privacy concerns, with an attorney from the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation noting that "compelling citizens to turn over protected health data to law enforcement erodes [privacy] rights." Compton's next hearing is set for Feb. 21. (Read more weird crimes stories.)