Her ex-boyfriend, Stephen McNeil, 20, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder
Trigger warning: This story contains details of abuse that may be disturbing to readers.
18-year-old Danielle Hopton spent most of her free time at an animal shelter. The recent high-school graduate also helped her dad raise guide dog puppies for the blind, reports PEOPLE. According to the police, she was found allegedly beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend at a parking lot in Fort Collins, Colorado. On February 6, 2021, Fort Collins Police received an emergency call regarding an unconscious and injured woman in an apartment parking lot.
https://t.co/XeGHYeAItO— Bruce (@Kebru13) February 16, 2021
Colorado #US 🇺🇲
18 yr old,Danielle Hopton beaten to death by ex-boyfriend outside of animal hospital where she volunteered
She also helped raise guide dogs for the seeing impaired w her father#gofundme 💲 set for animal shelters ✔️👍
This is America
According to a release by the Fort Collins Police, Hopton was found unconscious "with life-threatening injuries consistent with an assault." She was taken to the hospital but she succumbed to her injuries there. The New York Post reports that her death was ruled as a homicide, although the police did not go into the details of her injury sustained by her. Later, her ex-boyfriend, Stephen McNeil, 20, was arrested for her murder. Ian Rayas, 20, another suspect, was also taken into custody in connection with the killing.
As per the release, upon further investigation, "detectives learned that a group of friends had been socializing that evening, including Hopton, Stephen McNeil, and Ian Rayas. Several of the people eventually drove to an apartment complex at 525 E. Drake Road and parked to hang out. Hopton and McNeil, who had previously been in a relationship, got out of the vehicle to talk and the assault occurred. McNeil left the scene, and a member of the group called 911."
I'm so sorry that extreme violence is the only way that anyone feels is an acceptable form of behavior. What has happened to us as a country? Two beautiful, young people whose lives are both over.— René Jackson (@BLEYED1) February 17, 2021
Hopton and McNeil both went to Fossil Ridge High School, and Hopton graduated with the Class of 2020 with an academic award, according to CBS4. McNeil was part of the track and football teams. Hours after the assault, McNeil was picked up by the police on February 7 in the afternoon. He was booked into the Larmier County Jail and charged with first-degree murder. Rayas was also arrested by the police and charged with a class 4 felony. According to the release, "At the scene and throughout the investigation, Rayas repeatedly denied knowing either party and maintained that he had no information about what caused Hopton’s life-threatening injuries. After receiving evidence to the contrary, police arrested Rayas on February 11. He was booked into the Larimer County Jail on charges of Attempt to Influence a Public Servant (class 4 felony) and Accessory to a Crime (class 4 felony)."
So sad. R.I.P. so young & beautiful. Taken way to soon. He needs to get put under the jail.— Melissa_NYC (@Melissa22579274) February 17, 2021
Sgt. Heather Moore, who leads the Crimes Against Persons Unit, stated, "Domestic violence happens all too frequently, and it affects people of all ages in many communities. If you or someone you know is being affected by abuse, please reach out. We have resources in our community to help end the cycle of violence." According to the Daily Mail, Investigations Lieutenant Jeremy Yonce said the department would work hard "to support her family and seek justice." He said, "This heinous act of violence took a woman's life and forever changed the lives of her loved ones."
A GoFundMe page was set up to help the family. Hopton was described as "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. She was such a selfless and caring person." The money raised will be "split equally between Guide Dogs for the Blind, Larimer Animal Shelter, and Crossroads Safehouse," as that was what Hopton would have wanted.
Beyond heartbreaking... So many prayers for her family....— Heather Eder - evoke ministries (@heathereder) February 17, 2021