A man is pleading guilty to manslaughter and other charges in the death of missing New Hampshire boy Elijah Lewis, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Joseph Stapf has entered an intent to plead guilty to manslaughter, 2nd degree assault, falsifying physical evidence and witness tampering in Hillsborough Superior Court, a court document shows.
That guilty plea could carry a sentence of 22 to 45 years, according to the document.
Stapf is the boyfriend of the missing boy's mother, Danielle Dauphinais, 35, who was indicted earlier this year on one count of first-degree murder for purposely causing the death of Elijah Lewis; one count of second-degree murder for causing the death of Elijah Lewis recklessly with extreme indifference to the value of human life; and three counts of tampering with witnesses.
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That indictment came about six months after the little boy's body was found in a wooded area in Abington.
Court documents allege that Dauphinais caused her son's death sometime between September 2020 and September 2021, but the details as to what exactly happened are still unclear.
"I can't comment on the details really, other than to say that a lot of work has gone into this case from law enforcement and the team here with the Department of Justice," New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said.
"Every murder case is difficult. And cases involving a young child are especially difficult, so we're going to put a lot of hard work into this case." Formella added.
Dauphinais and her boyfriend, Stapf, had previously been charged with child endangerment and witness tampering for allegedly telling people to lie about Elijah's whereabouts.
Prosecutors say a cadaver dog found the little boy's remains covered with soil, and say he hadn't been seen for about a month before he was reported missing last October.
Officials say an autopsy later revealed Elijah's cause of death was violence and neglect, which included facial and scalp injuries as well as acute fentanyl intoxication.
"Unspeakable what happened to that child," said Gregory Doppstadt, who lives next door to the Merrimack, New Hampshire, home where Elijah was last seen.
Doppstadt says he only remembers seeing Elijah at the home once in the past.
"We all hoped and prayed, but we knew what happened to him," he said. "That's just horror. Your worst nightmare."
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Massachusetts determined the boy suffered “facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers.”