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Vt. man behind bear hoax pleads not guilty to attempted murder - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. man behind bear hoax pleads not guilty to attempted murder

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MILTON, Vt. -
Police say 28-year-old Lucas Gingras actually kicked his girlfriend off a 70-foot cliff and his drug-fueled hallucinations were all just well-spun lies. He is now being charged with attempted first-degree murder.

"I think this was one of the craziest stories I've ever heard," said T.J. Donovan, Chittenden County state's attorney

It was an elaborate tale of a bear attack that law enforcement now says was all part of Gingras' plan to murder his girlfriend, Ladonna Merriman, 44.

"Well this is just an incredible fantastic story that is designed to mislead not only law enforcement, but the public about Mr. Gingras' intent to kill his girlfriend," said Donovan.

Police say while camping last Wednesday on Georgia Mountain, Gingras was high on the drug Molly, which is similar to Ecstasy, and slipped it in Merriman's drink without her knowing. The pair also tested positive for opiates and marijuana.

Police say Gingras claims he then heard a bear and set fire to their cabin to protect themselves. Gingras then told police he convinced Merriman to jump off a 70-foot cliff to get away.

But now police say he actually kicked her off the cliff and went around to a nearby path to walk down. Police say Merriman was severely injured and Gingras dragged her three-quarters of a mile to a vehicle where he attempted to keep up his bear story by firing a rifle.

"The theory of the case is essentially, since she was still alive he had to continue with this ruse, took the rifle, fired the gun into the trunk of the car, burned down the cabin, all in his mind in order to further elaborate this tale of being chased by a bear," said Donovan.

And police say there may have been a history of domestic violence. Last year they were called to the pair's home for reports of a dispute. No charges were filed, but they say days before the attack Merriman was attempting to leave Gingras.

"It should be noted she attempted to leave him just a few days ago, and as a result of that we think is the motive for this tale, but really his intent to severely harm this young woman," said Donovan.

Documents also reveal that Gingras is a felon for armed robbery with a weapon in Florida and was therefore not supposed to be in possession of a firearm. The state says they do not know if charges will be forthcoming for that.

Gingras pleaded not guilty Wednesday to attempted first-degree murder, aggravated domestic assault, arson and reckless endangerment and is being held without bail.

Police say Merriman is still in the hospital for serious injuries.

Related Stories:

How a hallucinated bear attack led to attempted murder charges

Police: Bear attack didn't happen

Police, wildlife officials: No bear attack in Milton

Police can't substantiate campers' claims of reported bear attack

Bear reportedly attacks 2 in Milton

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