Vermont man pleads not guilty to attempted murder after bogus, drug-induced bear attack report

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A Vermont man who allegedly urged his girlfriend to jump off a cliff in a drug-induced haze because of a bear attack that never happened pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges including attempted murder and arson.

Police said Lucas Gingras had taken MDMA and spiked Ladonna Merriman's drink with the drug last week at a cabin in Milton, setting off a bizarre series of events that left Merriman hospitalized with a broken back.

Gingras, 28, initially investigators a bear had attacked him and Merriman, 44, and a camp stove got knocked over, setting the cabin on fire, police said.

But Gingras later told police he thinks the drug caused him to hallucinate that a bear was near the cabin, according to authorities. He believed he heard something trying to get into the cabin and, not knowing for sure if it was a bear or another animal, he set the cabin on fire and couple fled, police said.

He told Merriman to jump off a cliff behind the cabin because the bear was coming after her, police said. She fell 70 feet through trees and broke her back and punctured her lung, along with other injuries.

Gingras then dragged her three-quarters of a mile to a car, and left her to get help, police said. He came back with a friend who had a rifle. As Merriman sat in the front seat, Gingras shot the rifle into the trunk of the car, saying he thought the bear was in there, police said.

Gingras is charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree arson, first-degree domestic assault and reckless endangerment. He faces up to 35 years to life in prison if convicted.