MERRIMACK, N.H. (WHDH) - After a day of intense searching, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office said that based on new information the search for missing 5-year-old Elijah Lewis is turning into a recovery mission.
Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati could not say what that new information was but he is confident it will lead them to Elijah. “And we do believe at this time that Elijah is deceased.”
“Always hopeful we were going to find Elijah OK. At this point, we have to face the probability that Elijah is not OK,” he said.
A massive search got underway at a state park in Abington in connection with the disappearance of Elijah Lewis, authorities said.
Police from Massachusetts and the Granite State searched Ames Nowell State Park in the area of Chestnut Street for Elijah of Merrimack, who has been missing for weeks, according to New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella, New Hampshire State Police Colonel Nathan A. Noyes, and Merrimack Police Chief Brian K. Levesque.
Some sort of a “confession” led investigators to Abington on Friday, law enforcement sources said. Earlier this week, Lewis’ uncle urged the boy’s mother, 35-year-old Danielle Dauphinais, to cooperate with detectives.
Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said that investigators are searching for evidence linked to Lewis’ disappearance.
“It’s still a missing persons case until we find the missing person,” Cruz said during a news conference. “If this little boy is here, we’re going to find him.”
Video from SKY7 HD showed a large command center set up at the scene, as well as dozens of cruisers with flashing lights.
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Christopher Mason said that his department is using K9 teams and a helicopter to assist in the search.
Search teams had been scouring the woods and lakes in the area of Sunset Drive in Merrimack throughout the week before shifting south to Abington.
Crews also followed a lead that brought them to an apartment complex in Randolph around 1 p.m.
A boat and K9s were used to comb the body of water behind the Rosemont Square Apartment Complex but ultimately turned up empty. The scene cleared around 4 p.m.
The search was suspended at dark but is expected to start again Saturday morning.
Dauphinais and her boyfriend, 30-year-old Joseph Stapf, appeared from jail via video on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty in Hillsborough County Superior Court South to charges of witness tampering and child endangerment.
Dauphinais and Stapf were arrested in New York over the weekend in connection with Lewis’ disappearance.
The New Hampshire State Department of Children, Youth and Families reported Elijah Lewis missing last week, and officials initially said that he had not been seen in six months, but investigators on Tuesday announced that they now believe the boy was last seen at his home sometime within the last 30 days.
Dauphinais and Stapf are accused of asking relatives to lie about Lewis and where he was living, knowing that child protection service workers were searching for the boy, authorities said. They also allegedly violated a duty of care, protection, or support for Lewis.
A judge ordered the couple held without bail.
An investigation remains ongoing.
This is a developing news story; stay with 7NEWS for updates online and on-air.
(Copyright (c) 2021 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)