Attempted murder charge involves bogus bear report

AP News
Posted: Jun 25, 2014 8:04 PM

MILTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man who told police he urged his girlfriend to jump off a cliff in a drug-induced haze because of an imagined bear attack pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges including attempted murder and arson.

Police said Lucas Gingras actually kicked Ladonna Merriman over the edge of the 70-foot-high cliff, leaving her hospitalized with injuries including a broken back and punctured lung.

Chittenden County prosecutor T.J. Donovan told WCAX-TV ( ) that Gingras invented "an incredible fantastic story" to mislead investigators about his plan to kill his girlfriend. Donovan said Merriman had tried to leave Gingras in the days before her June 18 fall.

Gingras is charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree arson, first-degree domestic assault and reckless endangerment. He was held without bail and faces up to 35 years to life in prison if convicted.

It is unclear if Gingras has an attorney.

Authorities said Gingras, 28, had taken MDMA and used the same drug to spike Merriman's drink last week at a cabin in Milton, where he initially told investigators the couple had been attacked by a bear.

Gingras told police he and Merriman, 44, had been attacked by a bear during which an overturned camp stove set the cabin on fire, according to investigators. But Gingras later said he thought the drug caused him to hallucinate that a bear was near the cabin, authorities said.

Gingras told investigators he believed he heard something trying to get into the cabin and set it on fire before the couple fled to the cliff where he urged his girlfriend to jump to safety, police said.

After Merriman went over the cliff's edge, police said Gingras went around to a nearby path to walk down. Gingras then dragged Merriman three-quarters of a mile to a car, and left her to get help, police said.

When he returned with a friend who had a rifle, police said Gingras told them he fired into the truck of the car — while Merriman sat in the front seat — because he thought the bear was inside.