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Autopsy reveals 5-year-old boy died of violence, neglect — and fentanyl intoxication

Autopsy reveals 5-year-old boy died of violence, neglect — and fentanyl intoxication
Authorities started searching for Elijah after child services drew attention to his disappearance

The death of 5-year-old Elijah Lewis, whose remains were found in a Massachusetts park last month, has been ruled a homicide, authorities said on Monday.

New Hampshire authorities started searching for the boy on 14 October after the New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) brought drew attention of authorities to his disappearance. His mother Danielle Dauphinais, however, did not report him missing.

After a search spanning across five states, law enforcement officials discovered the boy’s remains in the woods in Massachusetts on 23 October.

Ms Dauphinais, 35, and her boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, 30, were arrested on 17 October and charged with witness tampering and child endangerment.

In a press release on Monday, the New Hampshire Department of Justice said that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Massachusetts has determined that Elijah’s death was homicide.

“The cause of Elijah’s death was determined to be violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers,” the statement said.

Earlier, reports said that Ms Dauphinais had complained to her friend about her son and compared him to serial killers.

“I call him the next Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer,” Ms Dauphinais wrote about her son in a text message to her friend Erika Wolfe. Both Bundy and Dahmer were notorious serial killers.

“It’s so sad but I have no connection with this child,” the message said.

Ms Wolfe sent the texts to a relative a day before Ms Dauphinais’ arrest, when she saw reports that Elijah was missing. The family member reportedly forwarded the texts to the police.

The boy had been living with his mother for less than a year and lived with his father prior to that. Reports said that Elijah’s father had called Ms Dauphinais “violent and impulsive” and claimed she had “a history of domestic violence and substance abuse”.

In her messages to Ms Wolfe, she also said that she did not trust her child. “He’s been getting worse and worse,” she told Ms Wolfe. “I want him gone. I can’t handle it anymore,” said one of the messages.

Authorities said on Monday that while Ms Dauphinais and her boyfriend remain held without bail on charges of Witness Tampering and Child Endangerment, the charges remain accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In a release on 18 October, the department of justice had said that the witness tampering charges stem from the fact that the couple allegedly 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 release said.

The authorities said that while the manner of death has been ruled on, the investigation into the circumstances of his death is still ongoing.