On September 19, 2016, Ross Compton told police that when he noticed a fire in his Middleton, Ohio home, he hastily packed suitcases, broke a window with his cane, and pushed his bags out the window, at which point he carried them to his car. After describing the scene to a 911 dispatcher, Compton added that he had an artificial heart. However, authorities began to question Compton’s story when they found gasoline on Compton’s clothes and discovered that the fire that destroyed his home appeared to have started in multiple areas at once.
As part of their investigation, authorities subpoenaed the data stored on Compton’s pacemaker, which would provide a historical record of Compton’s heart rate, cardiac rhythms, and pacemaker activity before, during, and after the fire. After reviewing this data, a cardiologist stated that it was “highly improbable” that Compton carried out the physically demanding activities described in his account. Authorities said that the pacemaker data represented some of the “key pieces of evidence” that resulted in charging Compton with aggravated arson and insurance fraud.
This case provides an excellent example of identifying non-traditional electronically stored information that can provide critical evidence unavailable from any other sources. During an investigation, it is important to identify what sources of electronically stored information exist and then to reasonably narrow that listing down to sources that may have unique, potentially responsive information. Although authorities may have independently pursued Compton’s pacemaker data, it may very well have been Compton’s own comments regarding the existence of his pacemaker that led them to request the data in the first place.
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