NASHUA, N.H (WHDH) - A 30-year-old New Hampshire man pled guilty for manslaughter and other charges in the death of his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son, Elijah Lewis, who was found dead in a Massachusetts park.
Joseph Stapf pled to manslaughter, second-degree assault, falsifying physical evidence and witness tampering. He could face a sentence of 22 to 45 years behind bars. He wasn’t previously charged with the boy’s death.
Elijah was found dead under soil in a wooded area near Ames Nowell State Park in Abington on Oct. 23 after being missing for about a month. An autopsy showed he died from violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment, and pressure ulcers.
A family friend is still heartbroken over the boy’s loss.
“I personally don’t feel justice was served today at all,” said M.J. Morrison. “I understand why the plea had to happen, but I just don’t think there is any amount of justice right now that can happen. You can’t fix all of our broken hearts. You can’t bring Elijah back.”
The Merrimack boy’s mother, 35-year-old Danielle Denise Dauphinais, and Stapf were arrested in New York and held without bail on charges of witness tampering and child endangerment in connection with Elijah’s death. Dauphinais, of Merrimack, New Hampshire, was later indicted on first-degree and second-degree murder charges in connection with her son’s death sometime between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 14, 2021. She is also accused of telling two people to lie and say Elijah was with them in October and telling another not to speak with investigators.
She remains imprisoned and is scheduled to go on trial for her son’s murder, where she intends to enter a not guilty plea.
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