A man originally charged with witness tampering and child endangerment in the disappearance and death of 5-year-old Elijah Lewis of Merrimack, New Hampshire has agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter in the case. His defense attorney told Boston 25′s Bob Ward that his client, Joe Stapf, is ‘fully prepared’ to reveal what happened to Lewis.
“We’ve reached an agreement with the state,” Paul Borchardt told Boston 25. “If he’s called to testify, he will testify. And he will testify truthfully about everything that happened to Elijah.”
Stapf was Danielle Dauphinais’ boyfriend at the time when her five-year-old son disappeared from his home and was later found buried in the woods of Abington, Mass in October of 2021.
Both Dauphinais and Stapf were arrested as fugitives in New York. Dauphinais was indicted on multiple charges, including murder in April of this year.
The notice of Stapf’s intent to plead guilty to charges of manslaughter, 2nd degree assault, falsifying evidence and witness tampering was filed in a New Hampshire court on September 2. The deal could see Stapf imprisoned between 22 and 45 years.
Although Lewis was last seen alive in September of 2021, he wasn’t reported missing until October.
An autopsy determined he died of “violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers.” His death had been declared a homicide.
“What happened here was really tragic, really difficult. It was a horrible thing that happened to Elijah,” Borchardt said on Wednesday. “This was a long process to reach this point. There was a lot of back and forth. I think in the end, this is Joe acknowledging what he did and getting a sentence that both sides feel is fair and reflects the crimes that Joe actually did.”
The plea deal is expected to be made official at a hearing in January.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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