The New Hampshire boy whose remains were found last month in a wooded area off of a Massachusetts road died from abuse and neglect, and authorities have ruled his death a homicide.
Elijah Lewis died from “violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers,” New Hampshire authorities announced Monday. Elijah Lewis was just 5 years old.
“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Massachusetts has determined that the manner of Elijah’s death was homicide,” the New Hampshire Department of Justice said in a press release.
After a 10-day, multi-state search, Elijah’s remains were found on Oct. 23 in a wooded area off a Massachusetts road. Authorities had been looking for him since Oct. 14, although investigators have said they believe Elijah hadn’t been seen for about a month before police learned he was missing.
Elijah’s mother, Danielle Dauphinais, 35, and her boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, 30, are being held without bail on charges of witness tampering and child endangerment. They were arrested in New York on Oct. 17, as the search for Elijah was underway.
“Samples were taken at the autopsy and sent out for toxicology, and they determined there was a certain level of fentanyl in his system,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell told local ABC affiliate WMUR. “So, the investigation will be ongoing to determine how he came to ingest the fentanyl.”
Morrell said the results were “shocking and sad,” WMUR reported.
“Beyond sad that this child endured so much neglect and violence and that nobody intervened during the time he was being injured,” Morrell said, according to WMUR.
The Boston Globe previously reported that Dauphinais had texted a friend about Elijah, saying she wanted him “gone” and comparing him to serial killers.
“I call him the next Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer,” Dauphinais said in a message to Erika Wolfe in June. “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 it anymore.”
Wolfe, who knew Dauphinais when they were teenagers, told the Globe she hadn’t seen her in years. Dauphinais had responded to a Snapchat post in which Wolfe was discussing her own teenage son’s behavioral issues.
Of Elijah, Dauphinais told Wolfe that she “can’t trust him at all,” and that she had to keep him in his room.
“It’s been a [expletive] nightmare that I can’t wake up from,” Dauphinais said in a message. “It’s so damn sad and I’m so sorry you’re going through this too. Ugh why us??? Is it because we were assholes as kids and it’s payback? Like I don’t get it.”
Wolfe told the Globe that she had forgotten about the correspondence until October, when Elijah’s disappearance made headlines.
According to the criminal complaint against Dauphinais, she failed to report Elijah as missing. She also allegedly encouraged two people to tell child protective services that Elijah was with her, even though he wasn’t, and asked two people not to talk to child protective services about Elijah.
Dauphinais and Stapf have two children together, according to the Globe, including one that was born earlier in October.
Dauphinais has five children in addition to Elijah. Morrell told Law&Crime that “law enforcement has determined that they are all safe.”
Authorities said the investigation into Elijah’s death remains active and ongoing.
[Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information from Susan Morrell, of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, about Dauphinais’ children.]
[Images via New Hampshire Attorney General]
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