Mother of missing Merrimack boy held without bail, search continues for her 5-year-old son

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Hillsborough County Superior Court House South. File Photo/Carol Robidoux

NASHUA, NH – The mother of a missing 5-year-old Merrimack boy is being held without bail after her arraignment Wednesday on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and witness tampering.

Danielle Denise Dauphinais, 35, of 7 Sunset Drive, Merrimack, waived reading of the charges in Hillsborough County Superior Court Southern District and entered not guilty pleas to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, both class A misdemeanors, and three counts of witness tampering, all class B felonies.

Danielle Dauphinais appeared in Hillsborough County Superior Court South in Nashua on Wednesday. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

Defense attorney Jaye Rancourt and prosecutor Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Susan Morrell agreed Dauphinais could come back to court at a later date to address bail.

Her companion, Joseph Stapf, 30, of the same address, is also being detained on preventative detention on one count each of child endangerment and witness tampering.  He waived arraignment and also reserved the right to request a bail hearing.  On Tuesday afternoon, Stapf reportedly was taken by ambulance to a Manchester hospital after suffering a medical issue at the Merrimack Police Department.

The endangering offenses accuse Dauphinais between Sept. 1 and Oct. 14, 2021, of preventing child protective service workers from locating her son, Elijah, by failing to report him missing and encouraging Bruce Scherzer and Tracy Lyn Dauphinais to tell child protective service employees that Elijah was with them.

Joseph Stapf, who was detained on preventative detention on one count each of child endangerment and witness tampering in the case of a missing Merrimack boy, was transported to a Manchester hospital Tuesday from Merrimack Police Station after suffering a “medical condition.” Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

The witness tampering charges accuse her of asking Scherzer on Oct. 14, 2021, to lie to a child protective service worker and say Elijah was with him; on Oct. 10, 2021, of asking Joanne Stapf not to talk to a child protective service worker about Elijah; and on or about Oct. 14, 2021, asking Tracy Lyn Dauphinais to lie to a child protective service worker about Elijah.

Investigators said Elijah hasn’t been seen for about 30 days.  New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families only learned he was missing on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.  DCYF officials notified law enforcement that same day and Merrimack police immediately opened a case.  Later that same day, state police and officials from the N.H. Department of justice joined the investigation.

Investigators obtained warrants for the arrest of both Dauphinais and her companion, Joseph Stapf, 30, also of Merrimack and this past Sunday they were arrested in the Bronx, N.Y. 

Investigators continue to search for Elijah.  That has included a New Hampshire Fish and Dive Team searching the waters of Naticook Lake in Merrimack in an area adjacent to Dauphinais’ residence.

Detectives and a member of state police Major Crime Unit over the weekend also were seen in Dauphinais’ backyard with shovels and rakes.

Dauphinais and Stapf waived extradition in New York on Monday and subsequently were brought back to New Hampshire to face state charges.

Judge Charles Temple sealed affidavits, which detailed what evidence investigators say support probable cause for the couple’s arrest, in both cases except for view by defense counsel.  were sealed from the public.

Anyone with information on Elijah’s whereabouts 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). Lead Investigator Detective Sergeant Kelly Healey, Major Crime Unit, can be contacted directly at Kelly.A.Healey@dos.nh.gov