Body of missing 5-year-old likely found buried in woods, authorities say
Elijah Lewis was last seen at his New Hampshire home in September.
After searching for more than a week for a missing 5-year-old New Hampshire boy, authorities said they believe they have found his body buried in a wooded area in Massachusetts, over 70 miles from his hometown.
Elijah Lewis was last seen at his home in Merrimack, New Hampshire, in September, authorities said.
“Credible information” led investigators to a wooded area in Abington, south of Boston, late this week, and Saturday morning, a state police cadaver dog “located what’s presumed to be Elijah Lewis’ body buried in the ground,” Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz said during a press briefing near the crime scene.
Investigators are still processing the scene. Authorities did not share further details on what they found, only that the remains were located “in a grave,” New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell told reporters.
An autopsy will be conducted on Sunday by the Massachusetts chief medical examiner’s office to determine the manner and cause of death and officially identify the body, though the appearance and condition of the remains led investigators to believe it to be the body of Elijah, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.
The death is considered suspicious, though Cruz said it is premature to determine a “homicide or whatever crimes may come from it,” and that no charges have been filed yet in the manner. Charges could be brought depending on the results of the autopsy, authorities said.
“Obviously a little boy is gone. Nobody deserved to die this way,” he said. “We need to make sure we do everything in our power to make sure we get justice for this little boy.”
Two people — Elijah’s mother, Danielle Dauphinais, 35, and her boyfriend, Joseph Staph, 30 — have already been charged so far in connection with his disappearance.
On Sunday, the couple was arrested in New York City on charges of witness tampering and child endangerment. Both allegedly asked other people to lie about where the 5-year-old was living “knowing that child protection service workers were searching for Elijah,” according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.
“The endangerment charge alleges that they violated a duty of care, protection or support for Elijah,” the office said.
The two pleaded not guilty to both charges Wednesday in a New Hampshire court. The attorney information for both was not immediately available.
The Merrimack Police Department began investigating Elijah’s disappearance on Oct. 14, after the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families reported to police that his whereabouts were unknown, according to the state’s attorney general’s office. The child welfare agency’s involvement with the boy is unclear.
The search for Elijah involved multiple New Hampshire and Massachusetts state and county agencies, as well as the FBI.
Morrell thanked the public for the “robust response” to calls for information in the missing person case. Surveillance video and phone records were also “very helpful” in leading investigators to the scene, she said.
“We are very saddened about this situation, about Elijah’s death, and the fact that he was disposed of down here in the woods,” she said. “Our sympathies go out to his family and friends of the family, and to the community who’s mourning his death.”