- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - A woman initially thought to be a bear attack victim, then believed to have been pushed off a cliff, has been found dead at her home.

The Burlington Free Press reports (https://bfpne.ws/1J87NVm) 45-year-old Ladonna Merriman of Milton, Vermont, was found Wednesday.

Detective Paul Locke said the death isn’t considered suspicious. She was still recovering from a broken back and ribs and punctured lung from June. An autopsy was conducted; investigators await toxicology results.

Merriman’s boyfriend, 28-year-old Lucas Gingras, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges.

Gingras said he was in a drug-induced haze at a cabin in Milton with Merriman. He said he had taken MDMA, also known as molly or ecstasy, and used the same drug to spike her drink.

He initially told investigators the couple had been attacked by a bear, leading to a stove being overturned and the cabin being set on fire. Later, Gingras said he heard something trying to get inside, set the fire, and fled with Merriman to the cliff. He urged her to jump, but police say he kicked her over the edge of the 70-foot cliff.

At the time, Chittenden County prosecutor T.J. Donovan said 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 due back in court for a hearing April 10.

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Information from: The Burlington Free Press, https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com

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