Danielle Hopton was a Colorado teenager and animal shelter volunteer who was beaten to death in a parking lot earlier this month, police said. Authorities said they responded to a report of an “unconscious, injured woman” in an apartment building’s parking lot in Fort Collins, north of Denver, on February 6.
Fort Collins Police said in a press release that when they arrived, 18-year-old Hopton had “life-threatening injuries consistent with an assault.” She was brought to the hospital where she died of her injuries. The Larimer County Coroner ruled Hopton’s death a homicide, and the Fort Collins Police stated in their press release that they arrested two individuals in connection with her death, including her ex-boyfriend.
Stephen McNeil, her 20-year-old ex-boyfriend, was arrested on February 7 and charged with first-degree murder, domestic violence, violation of a protection order and violation of bail bond conditions. Fort Collins Police added that Ian Rayas was also arrested on February 11 and charged with attempting to influence a public servant and accessory to a crime, two felonies.
Authorities Said a Group of Friends Was ‘Socializing’ & McNeil Left the Scene After the Fatal Assault
The Fort Collins Police press release stated that Hopton, McNeil and Rayas were all socializing with a larger group of people on the night of the assault. A few of the friends drove to an apartment at 525 E. Drake Road and parked in the lot. According to the press release, Hopton and McNeil got out of the vehicle to talk, which is when Hopton was assaulted. It added that the two “had previously been in a relationship.”
McNeil left after the assault, authorities said, but one of the people on the scene called 911. Rayas was arrested because he “repeatedly denied knowing either party and maintained that he had no information about what caused Hopton’s life-threatening injuries,” Fort Collins Police said.
Investigations Lieutenant Jeremy Yonce added, “Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim. This heinous act of violence took a woman’s life and forever changed the lives of her loved ones. We will continue working diligently to support her family and seek justice.”
The press release urged anyone with information about the fatal assault who hadn’t already spoken to police to call Corporal Tessa Jakobsson at 970-221-6575 or Crime Stoppers of Larimer County at 970-221-6868 to remain anonymous.
Hopton Was Described as ‘Gorgeous, Loving, Kind & Caring’ By Her Family
A GoFundMe set up for Hopton’s family described the Colorado teen as “a gorgeous, loving, kind and caring young woman.” Bo Street, who organized the fundraiser on behalf of Hopton’s family, wrote, “She was always smiling and laughing, she was always asking how you are doing and just genuinely cared about others.”
According to the GoFundMe, Hopton was an animal lover who frequently volunteered at a local animal shelter and worked with her father raising guide dogs for the blind. Money raised by the GoFundMe will be “split equally between Guide Dogs for the Blind, Larimer Animal Shelter, and Crossroads Safehouse,” which Hopton’s family said is what the “selfless and caring” young woman would have wanted.
At the time of writing, over $30,000 had been raised, surpassing the fundraiser’s goal of $20,000. Hopton had just graduated with an academic award from Fossil Ridge High School in 2020, where she was also involved in track, football and literature, according to CBS4.