Merrimack, New Hampshire woman Danielle Denise Dauphinais has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of her 5-year-old son Elijah Lewis, state police announced Monday.

Dauphinais, 35, and her boyfriend Joseph Stapf, 30, were taken into custody in New York City Sunday on charges of witness tampering and child endangerment, after police said they waited six months to report the 5-year-old missing, and then told others to lie about where the boy had been living.

“Each of them asked other people to lie about Elijah and his whereabouts, knowing that Child Protective Service workers were looking for Elijah and trying to locate him,” said New Hampshire Justice Department official Ben Agati.

The pair were extradited back to New Hampshire on Monday and are expected to be arraigned in a Hillsborough County court on Wednesday. The two other children living in the couple’s home are safe, and are now in the custody of the state Division for Children, Youth, and Families, police said.

Authorities said Elijah Lewis was last seen at his mother’s Merrimack home on Naticook Lake, and marine units with the state police have reportedly searched the water and combed a nearby forest with rescue dogs for signs of the missing boy.

Still, officials have indicated they believe the child’s outlook is grim.

5-year-old Elijah Lewis of New Hampshire was last seen six months ago, but police said his mother Danielle Denise Dauphinais didn't report him missing until last week. She was arrested and charged with witness tampering and child endangerment on Sunday.
5-year-old Elijah Lewis of New Hampshire was last seen six months ago, but police said his mother Danielle Denise Dauphinais didn’t report him missing until last week. She was arrested and charged with witness tampering and child endangerment on Sunday. Photo credit: NH Department of Justice

“We’re trying to find Elijah. We hope we’re going to find him in good condition. But I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that the chances of that are not looking great at this point,” Agati told reporters on Monday.

“At this point, we’re hoping it’s not a recovery mission,” he continued. “We’re hoping somehow that we are going to go under a rock somewhere and find out that someone has taken him in, maybe there is some sort of mistaken identity that’s going on out there or he’s been misidentified. But right now, we are fearful that may be the direction we are headed.”

Neighbors told local reporters that they had never seen the boy before, and did not even know that Danielle Denise Dauphinais had a 5-year-old son.

“We only saw the toddler, and I knew she had a baby recently. But, we never saw the 5-year-old. Nobody really in the neighborhood ever saw him,” said neighbor Laura Jaynes.

“We never saw this little boy, and several of us are just aghast that there was a five-year-old living there,” agreed her husband Steve Jaynes.

“This is just heartbreaking,” said Greg Doppstadt, a next-door neighbor, adding that Dauphinais’ boyfriend Joseph Stapf may aid in the investigation, now that he’s in police custody.

“[Stapf is] not the kind of guy that, he’s not an aggressive kind of guy, so at least we’ll be able to get some answers on Elijah, and so that’s a big relief for the people of this community,” he told reporters.

Elijah Lewis’ father lives in Arizona and is cooperating with the investigation, officials said. He is not considered a person of interest in the boy’s disappearance.

It’s not yet clear why Danielle Denise Dauphinais waited six months to report her son’s disappearance. Investigators have been tight-lipped thus far, and appear to be focusing on rescuing — or recovering — Elijah Lewis.

Authorities are encouraging anyone with knowledge of Elijah Lewis’ disappearance and current whereabouts to contact the Merrimack Police Department at 603-424-2424, or to call the state police at 603-223-4381.