Father of 5-year-old boy found dead in Massachusetts in 2021 sues N.H. agency over son’s death

CONCORD, N.H. — The father of 5-year-old Elijah Lewis, who was found dead in a state park in Abington, Massachusetts in 2021, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New Hampshire’s child protection agency over his death.

Timothy Lewis claims in the lawsuit that New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families was negligent and failed to keep his son safe while the boy lived with his mother, Danielle Dauphinais, who is charged with his murder.

“As a result of Defendants’ actions or Defendants’ inaction, Elijah suffered malnourishment, facial and scalp injuries, pressure ulcers, acute fentanyl intoxication, violence and neglect, that ultimately resulted in his death,” according to the lawsuit filed May 15 in Merrimack Superior Court.

Lewis, who is the administrator of his son’s estate, “seeks compensatory damages as allowed by New Hampshire law, in addition to enhanced compensatory damages, and demands a trial by jury in this matter,” the lawsuit states.

In a statement Tuesday, the New Hampshire Department of Justice said, “We will review the complaint and respond as appropriate in due course.”

Dauphinais was indicted by a grand jury on murder charges in connection with her son’s death in April 2022. Dauphinais and her boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, were originally charged with witness tampering and child endangerment. Both remain in prison.

Elijah’s death was ruled a homicide after the boy’s body was found in a shallow grave in a state park in Abington on Oct. 23, 2021.

An autopsy later determined he died of “violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers.”

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His disappearance became known on Oct. 14, 2021 after a report to the Division for Children, Youth & Families in New Hampshire, which prompted an investigation by Merrimack and State Police. Elijah had not been reported missing prior to that date.

Crews searched for the boy for months before finding his body several miles away in Abington, Massachusetts.

According to the lawsuit, Elijah was born in 2016 in Arizona. His parents, Dauphinais and Lewis, divorced a year later, in 2017. Dauphinais moved to New Hampshire, and initially, Elijah remained in Arizona with his father. In 2020, at his mother’s request, the boy went to New Hampshire to stay with his mother.

In September 2020, according to the lawsuit, Dauphinais asked Lewis to take the boy back to Arizona. The following month, Lewis called New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families “to get help for Elijah as he was concerned about Elijah’s well-being in Danielle’s care.”

The lawsuit claims that the state’s child protection agency “engaged in no additional investigation or intervention regarding the concerns raised about Elijah’s safety, general care, living situation or his inadequate medical care – no home visit, no investigation, no collateral interviews” for the next two weeks, until the agency received another report of neglect about Elijah from a local hospital.

The lawsuit claims that, for several months during 2021 and leading up to the boy’s death, Dauphinais, either by herself or along with her then-boyfriend Stapf, “tortured Elijah” several times.

In graphic detail, the lawsuit claims that Dauphinais and Stapf, either independently or together, “Pierced Elijah’s face with a knitting needle, stabbed Elijah’s face with a bent coat hanger, repeatedly hit Elijah with a shower rod, starved Elijah to the point that this 5 year-old boy weighed 19 pounds when he died - about the weight of a watermelon; left untreated rotting flesh on Elijah’s back from a wound they caused; physically beat Elijah, forced Elijah to stand naked for hours in his room without blankets; cut Elijah; burned Elijah, allowed Elijah to be exposed to fentanyl; failed to provide medical care, caused Elijah’s death.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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