NASHUA, N.H. – A New Hampshire man has been sentenced to up to 45 years in prison in the death of 5-year-old Elijah Lewis.
Joseph Stapf pleaded guilty to several charges on Thursday, including manslaughter. He is facing a term of 22-45 years behind bars.
"How can there be justice when this little life is snuffed out," said New Hampshire Superior Court Judge Charles Temple, holding up a photo of "Eli."
Lewis was reported missing by social workers and later, Massachusetts, last October. An autopsy showed he suffered facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers.
Stapf was dating Elijah's mother, Danielle Dauphinais, who is awaiting trial on a murder charge.
Timothy Lewis, Elijah's biological father, gave a victim impact statement to the court, speaking through a monitor from his home in Arizona.
"You could have stepped up to stop this at any point if you had been man enough," he said. "You could have brought him home to us at any point."
Stapf himself spoke in court as well on Thursday, saying he "never wanted any of this to happen to Elijah." He offered a tearful apology after an excruciating account of what the boy endured in the couple's Merrimack, New Hampshire home.
"I loved that boy. I did," Stapf said. "I'm so sorry. I wish I could take it back."
The courtroom was full of police and case workers.
"Someone should have said something. Someone in that family should have said something," Merrimack Police Chief Brian Levesque said.
Also, in the front row, a group headed by one of Elijah's relatives, holding signs that said #EliLewisStrong.
"Be nosey," MJ Morrison said. "Be nosey with your neighbor's kids. You can save a child's life by doing something like that."
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