The mother of a missing 5-year-old boy and her boyfriend both pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Wednesday to charges they encouraged three people to lie to New Hampshire state social workers searching for the child.
Elijah Lewis, also known as Eli, was last seen at his home on Sunset Drive in Merrimack, N.H., within the last 30 days, officials said. Prosecutors had previously stated that the last time a person could independently confirm Elijah was alive was six months ago. The search for the boy is ongoing, according to authorities.
Danielle D. Dauphinais allegedly blocked the social workers from discovering Elijah was missing for about six weeks, starting in early September and lasting until Oct. 14 when the Division for Children, Youth and Families formally reported the child missing to Merrimack police, records show.
Dauphinais, 35, appeared via short-circuit television in Hillsborough Superior Court where not guilty pleas on multiple charges of child endangerment and witness tampering were entered on her behalf. She was ordered held pending further proceedings.
Dauphinais and her 30-year-old boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, were captured in New York City Sunday and both agreed to return to New Hampshire to face the charges.
Stapf is also charged with child endangerment and witness tampering and also appeared via a short-circuit television connection where not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf. He was also held pending further court proceedings.
Both Dauphinais and Stapf are charged with ordering Joanne Stapf “not to talk to a child protective social worker” about Elijah. Joanne Stapf’s connection to Joseph Stapf was not specified in court records.
Stapf is also accused of endangering Elijah’s welfare by failing to report the child was missing, which would have allowed social workers to step in and protect the child, records show.
Dauphinais’s alleged efforts to prevent social workers from discovering Elijah was missing were more extensive, allegedly pushing two more people, identified as Bruce Scherzer and Tracy Lyn Dauphinais, to lie to social workers last Thursday.
“Dauphinais asked Bruce Scherzer and then Tracy Lyn Dauphinais to tell child protective service workers that [Elijah Lewis] was with them when he was not,’” prosecutors wrote.
Dauphinais is also charged with witness tampering for allegedly pushing both people to lie to social workers knowing they had information critical to discovering the child’s whereabouts.
Police have searched the Sunset Drive home and nearby Naticook Lake for Elijah without success.