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Autopsy report: Violence, neglect, fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment all factors in death of Merrimack boy

By Dean Shalhoup - Senior Staff Writer | Nov 23, 2021

Courtesy photo A photo of Elijah "Eli" Lewis, the 5-year-old Merrimack boy whose remains were found in Massachusetts last month. His death was caused by several factors, according to an autopsy report. (Courtesy photo)

CONCORD — The results of an autopsy performed on the body of Elijah Lewis, the 5-year-old Merrimack boy who went missing in September and was later found dead in the woods of a Massachusetts park, show that several factors contributed to his death, which has been ruled a homicide, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell.

Morrell, in a Monday afternoon statement issued on behalf of the Attorney General’s office, said Elijah’s death was caused by acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment, violence, neglect and pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, which are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue typically caused by prolonged pressure on the skin.

The autopsy, performed by a representative of the Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner’s office, also showed evidence of facial and scalp injuries, according to the report.

Although no suspects have been identified or charged in connection with Elijah’s death, his mother and her boyfriend are currently being held without bail on charges of witness tampering and child endangerment.

Danielle Denise Dauphinais, 35, and Joseph Stapf, 30,

were arrested Oct. 18 in The Bronx by New York City Transit Police acting on the warrant that New Hampshire authorities issued for their arrests.

Dauphinais faces three counts of witness tampering, Class B felonies, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, Class A misdemeanors.

Stapf is charged with one count each of witness tampering and endangering the welfare of a child.

Dauphinais’s charges accuse her of trying to “induce, or otherwise cause,” three people — Tracy Lyn Dauphinais, who is believed to be her sister; Joanne Stapf, Joseph Stapf’s mother; and a man named Bruce Scherzer — to “testify or inform falsely” or to withhold testimony or information about Elijah from a child protective services worker.

The endangering the welfare of a child charges accuse her of allegedly preventing child protective services workers from locating Elijah by asking Tracy Lynn Dauphinais and Scherzer to tell the workers that Elijah was with them, when he was not.

The allegations against Stapf are similar; he’s accused of instructing his mother, Joanne Stapf, to not talk to a child protective services worker about Elijah.

About a week after the two were arrested, roughly 150 people gathered at Merrimack’s Watson Park for a candlelight vigil to remember the boy’s brief life and mourn their loss.

The vigil took place the day after the news came down that Elijah’s remains had been located in a wooded area of Ames Nowell State Park in Abington, Massachusetts, a northern Plymouth County town some 75 miles from Merrimack.

New Hampshire investigators, including Merrimack and state police and members of the Attorney General’s office, spent several days at the 7 Sunset Drive home of Joanne Stapf, Joseph’s mother, collecting evidence, interviewing neighbors and conducting several searches of Naticook Lake by police and Fish and Game dive teams.

According to their case files, Dauphinais and Stapf are currently scheduled for dispositional conferences on Thursday, Dec. 16, in Hillsborough County Superior Court South in Nashua.

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.


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