“Where is Eli?” That question, which had haunted a little boy’s family and stumped police, was answered Saturday when a cadaver-sniffing dog discovered the body of 5-year-old Elijah Lewis in a makeshift grave in Ames Nowell State Park in Abington.
But many questions remain and will likely take months to answer. Where did he die, and how? Was he a victim of violence? What role, if any, did the child’s mother have in his death? And what about her boyfriend?
“The determination of cause and manner of death remain pending further toxicology testing and further investigation. It is likely that it will be a few months before there is a specific determination of cause and manner of death,” New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan G. Morrell said Sunday. “At this time, it is anticipated that no additional charges will be brought until these findings are complete.”
Eli was one of six children born to Danielle D. Dauphinais of Merrimack, N.H., who is now in jail on charges of compelling two people to lie to social workers trying to locate Elijah this month. Dauphinais, 35, also faces a charge of child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Dauphinais’s boyfriend, Joseph B. Stapf, is also in jail after the couple was arrested in New York City on Oct. 17. Stapf, 30, has pleaded not guilty to witness tampering and child endangerment.
The couple allegedly misled social workers who were looking for Elijah from Sept. 1 to Oct. 14, according to court records.
Authorities first reported that they believed Elijah had not been seen since April. But after further investigation, they concluded the child was seen at least once near the Merrimack home he shared with his mother and Stapf “sometime within the last 30 days.”
Elijah was first officially reported missing by social workers on Oct. 14. The state’s child protection agency, citing state and federal privacy laws, has refused to discuss its interaction with Elijah, his mother, or Elijah’s other relatives.
Police began looking in earnest for the child on Oct. 14, a search that included boats crisscrossing Naticook Lake. The child’s mother and Stapf lived in a cottage-style home just a few steps from the water.
Since Oct. 14, officials have asked for the public’s help in locating the boy while they tried to find Dauphinais and Stapf. After the couple was placed in custody, law enforcement officials shifted their attention to Abington, a suburb south of Boston.
After a two-day search, Elijah’s body was found Saturday morning when a State Police trooper saw ground that had been disturbed in a wooded area about 250 yards off Chestnut Street.
“The search for Eli is over. He is no longer with us. I can not think. I am a wreck,’' his aunt, M.J. Morrison, wrote on a Facebook account she set up for the child. “Eli, we love you so much. I am so sorry buddy. I hope you are at peace. I hope you are watching and see how hard we all tried to find you. I hope you see all of the blue ribbons.”
Morrison led a candlelight vigil Sunday in Merrimack that drew some 200 people.
“Thank you to all of my family members and friends who stood with me today. I am so glad that I was able to do this for Eli,” she wrote on Facebook. “I was his voice, and I will continue to be until he gets his justice. We love you so much Eli.”