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Man Plans to Plead Guilty in Death of Girlfriend’s 5-Year-Old Son, May Testify Against Her: Report

Joseph Stapf (left), Elijah Lewis (center), and Danielle Dauphinais.

Joseph Stapf (left), Elijah Lewis (center), and Danielle Dauphinais.

A man charged with killing a young boy apparently plans to plead guilty in the case, and he may testify against the boy’s mother, who is also charged in the boy’s murder.

Joseph Stapf, 31, is scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing on Jan. 4, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader. Attorney Paul Borchardt reportedly says it is up to New Hampshire prosecutors to decide if his client will testify against co-defendant Danielle Dauphinais, 36, who was indicted in April on charges including first-degree murder for allegedly killing her son Elijah Lewis, 5.

“If they call him to testify, he’ll testify and he’ll testify truthfully,” he said.

The defense’s condition for pleading guilty is 22 to 45 years in state prison.

Borchardt’s notice of intent filing, which was issued last week, concerns four charges, including witness tampering and child endangerment, for which Stapf was already indicted. He will also waive indictment for manslaughter and second-degree assault, the filing stated.

Michael S. Garrity, spokesman for Attorney General John M. Formella, told Law&Crime that his office “cannot speak about a pending plea or an actual plea outside the courtroom.”

Dauphinais is scheduled for a motions hearing to take place Oct. 26.

Authorities in New Hampshire launched a search for Lewis in October after discovering no one had seen him in quite some time. Dauphinais and Stapf were arrested Oct. 17 in New York City during the search for the child. Lewis was found dead just six days later in a state park in Abington, Massachusetts.

Investigators determined the boy died of “violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers.”

“Samples were taken at the autopsy and sent out for toxicology, and they determined there was a certain level of fentanyl in his system,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell told local ABC affiliate WMUR in a November report. “So, the investigation will be ongoing to determine how he came to ingest the fentanyl.”

Authorities say Dauphinais told several people to tell child protective services that Lewis was with her, or to not speak to CPS at all.

She had allegedly expressed extreme frustration over the child before his disappearance.

“I call him the next Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer,” she told friend Erika Wolfe in a text message, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

“His father took him at the age of one and never returned him until last may 2020,” Dauphinais allegedly wrote. “He’s been getting worse and worse. I want him gone. I can’t handle it anymore.”

“I have to keep him in his room,” she allegedly wrote. “I can’t trust him at all. This child is [expletive] Erica straight [expletive].”

Wolfe, who had reconnected with Dauphinais years after being friends as teenagers, said she found some of the comments surprising but assumed Dauphinais was just venting.

Then she saw the media reports about the Lewis case.

“I remembered those messages,” she told the Globe. “And I was like, ‘Oh, no.’”

Marisa Sarnoff contributed to this report.

[Images via New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office]

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