Danielle Dauphinais and Joseph Stapf are a New Hampshire couple who have been arrested in connection to the search for missing 5-year-old Merrimack boy Elijah Lewis. Dauphinais is Elijah’s mother. Dauphinais and Stapf were arrested in New York on Sunday, October 17, 2021, three days after police began searching for them and the missing boy. Elijah was last seen six months before he was reported as missing, authorities said. He has not been found.
Dauphinais, 35, and Stapf, 30, are both facing charges in New Hampshire of witness tampering and child endangerment, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office said in a press release. “The witness tampering charges allege that they each asked other people to lie about Elijah and where he was living knowing that child protection service workers were searching for Elijah. The endangerment charge alleges that they violated a duty of care, protection or support for Elijah,” the attorney general’s office said in the release. Stapf is not the boy’s father.
According to the press release, the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families notified the Merrimack Police Department that Elijah’s whereabouts were unknown on Thursday, October, 14, 2021. The local police department began investigating with help from the New Hampshire State Police and New Hampshire Department of Justice. “Elijah was never reported missing to authorities prior to this time,” the attorney general’s office said. The boy, also known as Eli, “was last seen by independent individuals approximately six months ago,” authorities said.
“Anyone with information on Elijah’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Merrimack Police Department’s Crimeline at (603) 424-2424 or New Hampshire State Police Communications at (603) 223-4381 or 603-MCU-TIPS (603-628-8477). Lead Investigator Detective Sergeant Kelly Healey, Major Crime Unit, can be contacted directly at Kelly.A.Healey@dos.nh.gov,” the attorney general’s office said.
Here’s what you need to know about Danielle Dauphinais and Joseph Stapf and the search for Elijah Lewis:
1. Danielle Dauphinais & Joseph Stapf Were Arrested in the Bronx Amid a Search for Elijah Lewis at a Pond Near Where He Was Last Seen in New Hampshire, Police Say
Dauphinais and Stapf were arrested by officers from the New York City Transit Authority in the Bronx, New York, according to the press release from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office. “Officials are continuing to search for Elijah and are requesting the public’s assistance in locating him,” the press release said.
Their arrests came as authorities in New Hampshire searched around the home on Sunset Drive in Merrimack where Elijah had last been seen, CBS Boston reports. “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,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati told CBS Boston in an interview after the couple was arrested.
Search teams turned to a pond near Elijah’s home on Monday, CBS Boston reported. “At this point, we’re hoping it’s not a recovery mission, 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,” Agati told the news station. The couple had been living with Stapf’s mother, JoAnne Stapf.
2. Dauphinais Had Custody of 3 of Her 6 Kids — Including Elijah, Her Daughter & a Newborn — but Told Family She Had Given Elijah Up Because She Could Not Care for Him, a Family Member Who Is Helping in the Search Says
According to CBS Boston, the attorney general’s office said Elijah’s father does not live in New Hampshire, but is aware of what is happening and has cooperated with the investigation. A family member, MJ Morrison, started a Facebook page, “Find Elijah ‘Eli’ Lewis — NH Missing Child,” to assist in the search. Morrison provided details on the page about Dauphinais and her children. According to Morrison, Dauphinais has six kids, including Elijah, and had custody of Elijah, her newborn daughter and her second youngest daughter, until the recent DCYF investigation. Only Elijah is missing, the other children are safe, family said.
“Danielle, his mother had lied to many people about where he was and told people that he was safe. She stated she placed him out of state with one of her family members as she could not care for him due to his behavioral problems she claims he had,” Morrison, the biological aunt of Dauphinais’s eldest child, wrote in a Facebook post on October 17. ” This was not abnormal behavior for her as she had given up her rights to her three other children previously. Elijah was only just placed in Danielle’s care on May 27th, 2020 when his father sent him on a plane from Arizona.”
Morrison added, “Danielle is a known drug user and also goes ‘missing’ for months at a time when using. She has 6 total children. Three of her children have lived with their fathers since they were infants. Her young daughter and newborn with Joseph are placed with DCYF within the last week. Elijah is the only child of hers that is currently missing and not safe. Joseph is not Eli’s father. … He was last seen over 6 months ago. No daycare or school. She is a stay at home Mom. Jo worked full-time as a Manager at a thrift store and was out of the home 6 days a week almost 12 hours a day.”
3. Stapf Was Arrested on Burglary Charges in Hooksett, New Hampshire, in 2016
Stapf, who goes by Jo Stapf on Facebook, is a Merrimack, New Hampshire, native, according to his Facebook page. His Facebook profile shows several photos with his children and with Dauphinais. In December 2020, he wrote in a post alongside of a photo kissing Dauphinais at a beach, “This beautiful woman is my world.. i am so lucky to have you in my life dbaby… jojo is one happy man! Ily much!!”
Stapf, who has also lived in Florida, was arrested in 2016 in Hooksett, New Hampshire, according to a police press release from the time. Stapf was stopped by police after they spotted him and a woman in a “suspicious” vehicle, and he provided a fake driver’s license, the release said. His fingerprints then connected him to a February 2016 burglary, according to police. He was charged with burglary and disobeying an officer.
Stapf was also arrested in 2016 by the Mount Vernon, New Hampshire, police, according to a Facebook post from the time, “In July of 2015, Mont Vernon Police responded to a burglary on Dow Road. Upon police arrival it was discovered there was forced entry into the residence and jewelry was stolen while the homeowners were gone. On November 15, 2016, after a lengthy investigation, the Mont Vernon Police Department arrested Joseph Stapf, 25, of Singer Island, Florida. Stapf was booked and held on $1,000 cash. Stapf also had two active electronic bench warrants and a warrant from the Hooksett Police Department. Stapf is currently being held at the Valley Street Jail.”
4. Dauphinais Was Arrested on a DWI Charge in 2013 & on Theft Charges in 2019
Dauphinais also has a history of arrests in New Hampshire, according to online records. She was arrested in 2013 on a charge of driving while intoxicated in Hudson, New Hampshire, according to an arrest log in the Lowell Sun. She was living in Nashua, New Hampshire, at the time, according to the report. She was also arrested by Nashua Police in January 2019 on warrants related to charges of theft by unauthorized taking of $0 to $1,000, theft from building and nonpayment of fines, according to a police arrest log.
Dauphinais has previously lived in Mesa, Arizona, and Hagerstown, Maryland, according to online records. On Facebook, she uses the name Dee Dauphinais. Little other information about Dauphinais’s background was immediately available.
Morrison wrote on Facebook, “Please do not say everyone failed There were many of us who tried to help Danielle. I begged her to let me help her with Elijah when she was stressed out with him. She wouldn’t allow anyone to come to the home and would go MIA. As she was on drugs and hiding another pregnancy. She told me she had DCYF involved and that they had services started for him and that he was going with her sister. She was just waiting on the paperwork to be signed and he was on his way to her. Danielle giving up her children was so common that none of us questioned her plan.”
5. Dauphinais & Stapf Will Make Their First Court Appearance in New York as Authorities Seek to Extradite the Couple to New Hampshire
The New Hampshire AG’s office said in its press release, “Dauphinais and Stapf will be arraigned in the Bronx County Criminal Court located at 215 East 161st Street in New York City, New York, at 12:30 P.M. today. The State of New Hampshire has sought their extradition. If they choose to waive formal extradition, they will be returned to New Hampshire for arraignment in Hillsborough County Superior Court, Southern District later this week.”
The attorney general’s office added, “Based on the information currently known to investigators, there does not appear to be any danger to the public. The investigation is ongoing and additional information will be released as it becomes available while protecting the integrity of the investigation.” It was not immediately known if Dauphinais and Stapf have hired or been appointed attorneys who could speak on their behalf. The couple could not be reached for comment by Heavy and Stapf’s mother, JoAnne Stapf, who was living with them at the time of the boy’s disappearance, could also not be reached for comment by Heavy.
“This is extremely hard for all of us that are family or close to Elijah and Danielle to process right now. There is a lot of speculation going on, stories and unanswered questions. Please understand that Danielle has 5 other children other than Elijah out there. She has an older son (my nephew) who is present on social media and is having to not only cope, worry and deal with his brother missing but see and hear about his Mother all over the news. This is not easy for him nor is it easy for any of the other children involved,” Morrison wrote on Facebook. “We all want the same outcome. Elijah safe. Please refrain from placing blame on anyone but the two people (Danielle Dauphinais and Joseph Stapf) who are currently wanted for questioning inside this group. There is a reason why they are the only ones under investigation. This is a safe space for the family and friends of Elijah.”