Lucas Gingras, the Milton man whose ruse about a bear attack incited his girlfriend to jump off a cliff four years ago, was released from prison to furlough status last week, according to the Vt. Department of Corrections.
Gingras was sentenced to serve four to 10 years after pleading guilty to arson and reckless endangerment in spring 2016. Most prisoners who serve their minimum sentence are eligible for furlough, where the offender serves the remaining time in the community under DOC supervision, said Dale Crook, director of field services at the Vermont DOC.
“They are more akin to an inmate without walls,” Crook said of furlough. “We will release them on furlough unless there’s a reason for them not to.”
Crook wouldn’t speak to Gingras’ exact conditions of supervision but said Gingras is likely to meet with a probation officer more frequently than someone convicted of less violent crimes.
Gingras was arrested after a drug-fueled incident on Georgia Mountain in June 2014: Police said he drugged his then-girlfriend, Ladonna Merriman, and convinced her a bear was trying to enter the hunting cabin where they were staying. Gingras set fire to the cabin and lured Merriman to jump off a 70-foot ledge to escape the animal.
Gingras then dragged a seriously injured Merriman to an abandoned vehicle and fired a gun at the trunk before going to get help. He loaded Merriman into a friend’s car and drove past the police and rescue station to their apartment before calling 911. EMTs found Merriman bleeding in the upstairs bathtub. She survived but has since died of unrelated causes.
State prosecutors had charged Gingras with attempted murder but dropped that and a slew of other charges after a judge ruled some evidence was barred from a trial.
Gingras began serving his prison sentence in April 2016 and was released last Thursday. Including time served awaiting trial, Gingras was imprisoned for about seven months longer than his minimum sentence.
Crook said this frequently happens when an inmate can’t find approved housing, one of many conditions of supervision imposed on most offenders. Others include prohibiting consumption of drugs and alcohol and of owning a firearm and generally staying within the law’s good graces.
If an offender violates any provisions, the DOC holds a due process hearing and can either impose more rules or return the offender to prison, bypassing the court system, Crook said.