By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
The boyfriend of Elijah Lewis’ mother has signed a notice to plead guilty in connection with the 5-year-old Merrimack boy’s murder, according to court documents.
Joseph Stapf, 31, will plead guilty to manslaughter with an extended term, second-degree assault, falsifying evidence and witness tampering.
The fully negotiated plea means he would be sentenced to serve 22 to 45 years in state prison in the agreement signed Sept. 2.
An autopsy completed on Elijah’s remains revealed he was the victim of homicide.
The cause of Elijah’s death was violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Massachusetts.
The search for Elijah began Oct. 14, 2021, after the state Division for Children, Youth and Families notified police that the boy hadn’t been seen by independent people.
Elijah’s body was found nine days later in a makeshift grave in an Abington, Mass., park.
Stapf will have a status conference Oct. 7 and plea and sentencing hearing are scheduled for Jan. 4, 2023.
Elijah’s mother Danielle Dauphinais has been indicted on multiple charges in connection with the murder of her son.
At first authorities said he hadn’t been seen in six months but later changed it to a month.
Dauphinais was indicted April 15, 2022, by the Hillsborough County Grand Jury – Southern District charging her with one count of first-degree murder for purposely causing the death of Elijah Lewis; one count of second-degree murder for causing the death of Elijah Lewis recklessly with extreme indifference to the value of human life; and three counts of tampering with witnesses.
Dauphinais and Stapf were arrested Oct. 17, 2021 by officers of the New York City Transit Authority in the Bronx, New York, on witness tampering and child endangerment charges. Both pleaded not guilty at the time.