The mother of 5-year-old Elijah Lewis, whose body was found in a wooded area of Abington last October, has been indicted on murder charges in connection with the case, New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella’s office said Monday.
A Hillsborough County, N.H., grand jury handed up indictments charging Danielle Dauphinais, 35, with one count of first-degree murder for intentionally causing her son’s death; one count of second-degree murder for causing his death recklessly, with extreme indifference to the value of human life; and three counts of tampering with witnesses, Formella’s office said in a statement.
Lewis was last seen at his home in Merrimack, N.H., within a month of his disappearance, which was reported Oct. 14, authorities have said.
Dauphinais and her boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, 30, were arrested last October in New York City, less than a month after Dauphinais had given birth to the couple’s second child, Stapf’s attorney told the Globe at the time. They were charged with witness tampering and child endangerment — part of an alleged effort to cover up the boy’s whereabouts — but Monday’s announcement marks the first time either has been charged in Elijah’s death.
Dauphinais is being held without bail and is expected to be arraigned in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, but a date has not yet been set, according to the statement.
Jaye L. Rancourt, a lawyer for Dauphinais, said in an e-mail that she denies wrongdoing.
“My client maintains her innocence in regards to these recent allegations,” Rancourt wrote.
Elijah’s disappearance last fall set off an intense search by authorities in at least five states and made national headlines. The search, which was prompted when New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families reported the boy missing, would stretch 10 days before Elijah’s body was found in a wooded area in Massachusetts. It remains unclear what led authorities to that location, some 75 miles from the boy’s home.
In ruling Elijah’s death a homicide late last year, the Massachusetts medical examiner’s office determined the cause of death to be “violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment, and pressure ulcers,” Formellla’s office said at the time.
The indictment in the case alleges Dauphinais “manifested exceptional cruelty or depravity in inflicting death on Elijah Lewis.” The document doesn’t specify how she allegedly killed her son, though it asserts that she “did purposefully” cause his death between Sept. 27, 2020, and Sept. 24, 2021.
The indictment also alleges that on or around Oct. 14, the day Elijah was reported missing, Dauphinais asked two people identified as Bruce Scherzer and Tracy Dauphinais to tell child protective service workers that the boy was with them, “when in fact he was not.”
In addition, the indictment alleges Danielle Dauphinais also told a woman identified as Joanne Stapf not to talk to child welfare officials about Elijah.
Just four months before Elijah’s death, Danielle Dauphinais allegedly told a friend that she could no longer control the boy, compared him to serial killers, and said she wanted him “gone.”
Danielle Dauphinais allegedly complained to a childhood friend over text messages that Elijah, the fourth of her six children, had become unruly and untenable, according to screenshots of the conversation previously reviewed by the Globe.
“I call him the next Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer,” Dauphinais wrote. “It’s so sad but I have no connection with this child.”
“He’s been getting worse and worse,” Dauphinais added of her son.
The messages, sent through the Snapchat app between Dauphinais and Erika Wolfe, were shared with the Globe by Wolfe, who has known Dauphinais since both were teenagers in New Hampshire. Another friend of Dauphinais’s, Michelle O’Brien, confirmed that Wolfe had previously shared the messages.
In text messages with another friend in January 2021, meanwhile, Dauphinais complained that Stapf’s mother, who the couple had been living with at the time, had accused Dauphinais of “child abuse” because Dauphinais had withheld food from the child.
“I made Elijah a decent plate of food and she insisted on giving him seconds,” Dauphinais wrote in a January text. “I told her no because this child will eat till he pukes and then eat some more. I also told her that he’s having cake after so there is no need for seconds.”
“She said I was wrong and that was child abuse,” Dauphinais continued. “She said that she’s an Italian grandma and that she considers this child abuse in her family. Like wtf!”
The frank messages offered a troubling glimpse into the final months of Elijah’s short life, in which he was passed between parents in Arizona and New Hampshire and cared for by adults with a host of criminal and personal struggles.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism