Middletown’s pacemaker arson trial again delayed by judge

A Middletown man charged with allegedly setting fire to his home in 2016 will not go to trial next month.

Ross Compton, 60, was indicted in January 2017 for aggravated arson and insurance fraud for allegedly setting fire to his Court Donegal house. The blaze caused nearly $400,000 in damages. Compton was arrested based in part from data taken from his pacemaker.

FIRST REPORT: Data from man’s pacemaker led to arson charges

Compton was scheduled to go to trail on March 4, but Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater on Friday granted a defense motion to continue the trial. A new date will be chosen on Tuesday when prosecutors and Compton’s defense team are back in court to argue motions in the case.

The defense is asking Pater to reconsider a previous ruling citing physician-patient privilege, rather than invasion of his Constitutional rights.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind to use data from a beating heart as evidence. Last year, Pater ruled that evidence from Compton’s pacemaker could be presented at trial.

Compton, who was free on his own recognizance, failed to show up for a court hearing in March 2018, just days before his trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court, and Judge Charles Pater issued a warrant for his arrest. In July, he was back in custody and again appeared before Pater, who set his bond at $100,000. Compton remains in jail.

Pater said it was with “a lot of reluctance” he was granting the motion to continue the trial.

“This case is an old case, I really do not like the idea of delaying the trial one more time. And I am very much aware that one of the reasons for the trial being set as late as it already has, is Mr. Compton’s absconding and not making himself available the court or his attorney or anyone else related to the trial,” Pater said.

But Pater said the case is a complicated one with unique evidence and questions of law. In addition, through no fault of Compton, his first attorney left the public defenders office and another was appointed, the judge said.

MORE: Judge: Pacemaker data can be used at Middletown arson trial

Middletown detectives said Compton gave statements that were “inconsistent” with evidence collected at the scene and from his medical device.

Compton, who has an artificial heart implant that uses an external pump, told police he was asleep when the fire started. When he awoke and saw the fire, he told police he packed some belongings in a suitcase and bags, broke out the glass of his bedroom window with a cane, and threw the bags and suitcase out the window before climbing out the window himself and taking the bags to his car.

Police then obtained a search warrant for all of the electronic data stored in Compton’s cardiac pacing device, according to court records.

The data taken from Compton’s pacemaker included his heart rate, pacer demand, and cardiac rhythms before, during and after the fire.

A cardiologist who reviewed that data determined “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,” according to court documents.

MORE: Middletown man again asking judge to throw out pacemaker evidence in arson case

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