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Authorities believe missing 5-year-old NH boy is dead after search in Abington suspended for the night

A State Police trooper carried a shovel along Chestnut Street in Abington as searchers combed the nearby woods.Erin Clark / Globe Staff

ABINGTON — An urgent search at a state park here for missing 5-year-old Elijah Lewis of Merrimack, N.H., whose mother and her boyfriend have been charged in his disappearance, turned grim Friday night, with New Hampshire law enforcement officials saying they do not believe the boy is alive.

Benjamin J. Agati, a New Hampshire senior assistant attorney general, said unspecified “new information coming in through the investigation” during the day leads authorities to believe the boy is dead.

“I can’t say anything with 100 percent certainty,” because Elijah has not yet been located, Agati said. “We are hopeful that investigators will be able to find more” on Saturday, when the search is due to resume.


Elijah has been missing for at least several weeks, and authorities said they recently received information leading them to search an area near Ames Nowell State Park.

“We will be here until all leads have been followed up,” Massachusetts State Police Colonel Christopher Mason said at a late afternoon news conference at the scene.

Officials ended the search for the day about 6 p.m., but it will resume Saturday morning, according to David Procopio, a State Police spokesman.

Troopers also searched an area in Randolph on Friday as part of the investigation into the boy’s disappearance but did not find anything there, Procopio said.

Friday’s search came two days after Elijah’s mother, Danielle D. Dauphinais, 35, and Dauphinais’s boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, 30 , pleaded not guilty in Hillsborough Superior Court to charges of child endangerment and witness tampering. Both were ordered held without bail.

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 earlier this week. Prosecutors had previously stated the last time a person could independently confirm Elijah was alive was six months ago.


Law enforcement officials did not say what led investigators to search for him in Massachusetts.

Mason said there was a heavy police presence in the area around Chestnut Street, including the State Police Air Wing helicopter unit and K-9 units, as well as officers from Abington and Merrimack.

The New Hampshire State Police major crimes unit also responded to the scene according to that state’s attorney general’s office.

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said that investigators are following up on leads that brought them to a wooded area off Chestnut Street, according to video broadcast by WBZ-TV.

Asked if the boy is believed to be alive, Cruz said, “I think you’re always hopeful that somebody’s alive until somebody’s found not to be. So right now, we’re doing the best we can with the information we have, and we have a responsibility to go forward and try to find this little boy.”

As searchers begin to pack up and the sun set, a helicopter flew over the state park, which has walking trails and a pond.

Blue police lights flashed near an area of Chestnut and Hancock streets that was blocked to most traffic. “I hope you find him,” a woman driving a dark sedan said to a police officer at the scene.

Police were expected to be on the scene late into Friday evening, an officer said.

Despite a heavy police presence in their neighborhood on an unusually warm October day, some residents said their thoughts were more with the missing boy.


“I just hope they find him soon,” said a resident named Brian, who declined to give his last name.

Authorities are searching for 5-year-old Elijah Lewis (seen here in May 2020) of Merrimack, N.H.New Hampshire Attorney General's office

Prosecutors allege Dauphinais blocked 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.

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.

Joseph 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 week.

“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 Dauphinais’s Sunset Drive home and nearby Naticook Lake in Merrimack, N.H. for Elijah without success.

Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this story.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.