The mother of a 5-year-old New Hampshire boy whose body was found in a makeshift grave in Massachusetts less than two weeks after he was reported missing in October 2021 has been indicted on murder charges.
The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office announced Monday that Danielle Dauphinais, 35, was indicted 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.
The indictment comes about six months after the little boy's body was found in a wooded area in Abington.
More on the Elijah Lewis case
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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, Joseph 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."
Dauphinais continues to be held without bail. An arraignment will be scheduled in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua. Her attorney said she maintains her innocence.
Here's a look back at what we know about this tragic case:
When was Elijah Lewis last seen?
Elijah was last seen at his home in Merrimack, New Hampshire, sometime within 30 days of when he was officially reported missing on Oct. 14.
The attorney general's office had initially said Elijah was last seen about six months ago before revising their statement.
When did authorities realize the child was missing?
The New Hampshire Division for Children Youth and Families notified police on Oct. 14 that Elijah was missing.
The agency’s involvement with the boy is unclear, but state police said he was last seen by “independent individuals” and was never reported missing to authorities before this month.
Mother, another man arrested
Dauphinais and her boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, 30, were arrested Oct. 17 in New York and remain held without bail on charges of witness tampering and child endangerment.
The witness tampering charges allege that they each asked other people to lie about Elijah and where he was living, knowing that child protection service workers were searching for him. The endangerment charges allege that they violated a duty of care, protection or support for Elijah. Court affidavits supporting the charges were sealed.
Search comes to a tragic conclusion
A state police cadaver dog found Elijah's body buried in a makeshift grave in the woods in Abington, Massachusetts — about 20 miles south of Boston — a little over a week later on Oct. 23.
It's unknown how long the body had been in the woods. Multiple agencies from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine helped with the search.
The search shifted to Abington from New Hampshire based on a tip. Previous searches in the area around Elijah's New Hampshire home by helicopter and a nearby lake by boat had turned up nothing.
Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz and other law enforcement officials shared few details about the case after the body was found, saying they didn't want to say anything that would jeopardize getting justice for Elijah.
"Obviously a little boy is gone. Nobody deserves to die this way and we hope to get justice for the little boy," Cruz said at the time.
What did the autopsy results show?
The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office released Elijah's cause of death on Nov. 22. They showed that the young child died of violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers.
The autopsy results were the first time authorities had said anything about how Elijah died.
The attorney general's office said the investigation into Elijah's death "remains active and ongoing" and asked anyone with information to contact police.
"This has multiple findings that are all contributing to his death," Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Susan Morrell said. "If anybody has additional information about Elijah's life in Merrimack or his death, we'd really like them to reach out to law enforcement."