Body of missing Merrimack boy found buried in Massachusetts park

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Authorities held a news conference Oct. 23, 2021, in Abington, Mass., to announce the discovery of a body believed to be that of Elijah Lewis, 5, of Merrimack. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

UPDATE, Oct. 24, 2021: The NH Attorney General’s office released the following information Sunday.

An autopsy done by Dr. Richard Atkinson, of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Massachusetts.positively identified the remains as Elijah Lewis using dental records. The determination of cause and manner of death remain pending further toxicology testing and further investigation. It is likely that it will be a few months before there is a specific determination of cause and manner of death.

At this time, it is anticipated that no additional charges will be brought until these findings are complete.

ABINGTON, MA. – Law enforcement on Saturday located a body in Abington, Mass., in a wooded area off Chestnut Street they believe is that of a Merrimack boy who has been missing for a month and the subject of a week-long search.

Plymouth, Mass., District Attorney Tim Cruz said at a news conference Saturday that cadaver dogs found the body of Elijah Lewis, 5,  buried at Ames Nowell State Park.

The news was announced at a press conference Saturday, eight days after the search began at 7 Sunset Drive in Merrimack and about a month after the boy was last reportedly seen. Nine days ago the NH Division for Children, Youth and Families became involved.

“While identification is pending, the appearance and condition of the body lead investigators to believe that the body is that of 5 year-old Elijah Lewis,” according to a news release from Attorney General John Formella.

Gov. Chris Sununu weighed in on the release.

“Horrific tragedies like this often spur countless hours of dedication by so many,” Sununu said. “On behalf of the people of New Hampshire, I would like to thank New Hampshire and Massachusetts law enforcement and everyone else involved for their tireless focus this past week on bringing closure to this search. May Elijah rest in peace.”

The medical examiner in Massachusetts will conduct an autopsy Sunday to confirm the identity of the body, and the exact cause and manner of death.

Elijah’s mother, Danielle Denise Dauphinais, 35, and her boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, 30, were arrested Oct. 17 by officers of the New York City Transit Authority in the Bronx, New York, on witness tampering and child endangerment charges and are being held on preventive detention in New Hampshire.

Both pleaded not guilty on Wednesday. Two of Dauphinais’ brothers spoke to reporters that day asking her to provide information to help find Elijah, who was reportedly one of Dauphinais’s six children.

Search teams at the scene of a search at Ames Nowell State Park on Oct. 23, 2021. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

The witness tampering charges allege that Dauphinais and Stapf each asked other people to lie about Elijah and where he was living knowing that child protection service workers were searching for Elijah.  The endangerment charge alleges that they violated a duty of care, protection or support for Elijah.

The search and discovery were conducted by the Massachusetts State Police with assistance from the New Hampshire State Police Major Crime Unit, the Rhode Island State Police, and the Merrimack Police Department. These agencies were assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Abington Police Department, and the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Throughout this week, lead investigators have also been assisted by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, resources and personnel through the North East State Police and Administration Conference (NESPAC), the Maine State Police, the Manchester Police Department, and the New York City Transit Police.

Formella, Colonel Nathan Noyes, and Chief Brian Levesque also thanked the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office. “The New Hampshire law enforcement community has worked tirelessly on this search over the past week with partners in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York, as well as our federal partners,” said Formella.

“We extend our sincere thanks to all those who have assisted thus far. While we are deeply saddened by this tragic situation, we are ready for the work ahead.”

This matter is now considered a suspicious death, and the investigation remains active and ongoing. Anyone who may have information on this crime is asked to contact the Merrimack Police Department’s Crimeline at (603) 424-2424 or New Hampshire State Police Communications at (603) 223-4381 or 603-MCU-TIPS (603-628-8477). Additional information will be released as it becomes available while protecting the integrity of the investigation.

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