Who was Danielle Hopton? Colorado animal shelter volunteer, 18, allegedly beaten to death in parking lot by ex
Another man, Ian Rayes, who denied knowing the victim and her ex-boyfriend, was also arrested as an accessory to the crime
FORT COLLINS, COLORADO: A teenager who was found beaten to death in a Fort Collins parking lot last weekend has been identified by the Larimer County Coroner’s Office as 18-year-old Danielle Hopton of Fort Collins.
As a longtime animal lover, Hopton liked spending time working at a local animal shelter and helping her father raise guide dog puppies for the blind. On February 6, 2021, the recent high school graduate was allegedly fatally injured by her ex-boyfriend, police said. The alleged violence came to light on the same day when Fort Collins Police received a 911 call about an unconscious, injured woman in the parking lot of 525 East Drake Road, the department said in a release.
When cops arrived, they found Hopton in the parking lot "with life-threatening injuries consistent with an assault", according to the release. She was then rushed to a local hospital, where she died as a result of her injuries. The detectives subsequently identified her 20-year-old ex-boyfriend, Stephen McNeil, as a suspect in her killing, police said in the release. Later, another man named Ian Rayas was also arrested.
According to the press release, he and the victim knew each other. The two "had previously been in a relationship". Hopton and McNeil both went to the same school, Fossil Ridge High School, CBS4 reported. Hopton graduated with the class of 2020 with an academic award, according to CBS4.
According to a report by The Sun, the trio drove to Whispering Pines Apartments with a group of friends before Hopton and McNeil got out of the car to talk. McNeil then allegedly attacked Hopton, leading other people of the group to call the police as McNeil left the scene. "Several of the people eventually drove to an apartment complex at 525 E. Drake Road and parked to hang out," police said in a statement.
On February 7, 2021, at noon, hours after Hopton's death, the police department found McNeil and took him into custody without incident. He was then booked into the Larimer County Jail on charges of first-degree murder, a felony, domestic violence, violation of a protection order and violation of bail bond conditions. At first, Rayas denied knowing both, but when police questioned him, they found "evidence to the contrary". He is facing felony charges of attempt to influence a public servant and accessory to a crime.
A GoFundMe page was created stating, "all money raised will be split equally between Guide Dogs for the Blind, Larimer Animal Shelter, and Crossroads Safehouse." The page also states: "Danielle was a gorgeous, loving, kind and caring young woman. She was always smiling and laughing, she was always asking how you are doing and just genuinely cared about others. Danielle loved spending her time volunteering at the Animal shelter, and helping her dad raise Guide Dog puppies." The page has raised $32,656 of the $20,000 goal.