The cause of death has been revealed for 5-year-old New Hampshire boy Elijah Lewis, whose body was found buried in the woods nine days after he disappeared.
The Office of The Chief Medical Examiner in Massachusetts determined Elijah’s manner of death was homicide, according to a news release from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. An autopsy reported the boy died of violence and neglect, including injuries to the face and scalp, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment, and pressure ulcers.
Elijah was declared missing from Merrimack, New Hampshire, on Oct. 14, 2021, after someone reported his whereabouts as unknown to the state’s Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCFY), as previously reported. DCYF contacted law enforcement, prompting days of searches that spread across the state and into Massachusetts. On Oct. 23, a cadaver dog led to a body buried in a wooded area in Massachusetts.
The medical examiner positively identified Elijah Lewis through dental records.
On Oct. 17, Elijah’s mother, Danielle Denise Dauphinais, 35, and her boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, 30, were arrested in New York City. Warrants were issued on charges of witness tampering and child endangerment before Elijah’s body was found, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. Dauphinais and Stapf allegedly asked others to lie about Elijah’s whereabouts in light of social workers’ involvement in the case. Investigators said the pair “violated a duty of care, protection, or support for Elijah.”
Dauphinais and Stapf were extradited back to New Hampshire.
It emerged that Dauphinais reportedly complained about Elijah’s behavior to her friend, comparing her son to infamous killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. According to one message she allegedly wrote, Elijah had lived with his father for several years before being returned to Dauphinais last spring.
“I call him the next Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer,” Dauphinais allegedly wrote to a friend on June 22. “It’s so sad, but I have no connection with this child. His father took him at the age of one and never returned him until last May 2020. He’s been getting worse and worse. I want him gone. I can’t handle him anymore.”
Dauphinais also allegedly complained about her son’s behavior to another friend.
“I have to keep him in his room,” said Dauphinais. “I can’t trust him at all. This child is (expletive).”
Dauphinais and Stapf remain held without bail on charges of witness tampering and child endangerment. But those charges could be upgraded, according to Senior Assistant District Attorney General Susan G. Morrell.
“Once we have a determination of cause and manner of death, we’ll be examining all of our facts that we’ve gathered in the investigation and determining what, if any, further charges will be brought,” Morrell said in a press conference following the discovery of the body.
Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz also spoke at the press conference, as previously reported.
“Obviously, a little boy is gone,” said Cruz. “Nobody deserved to die this way, and we need to make sure we do everything in our power to make sure we can get justice for this little boy.”
The investigation is ongoing.
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