The ex-boyfriend of a Colorado teen who was found beaten to death in a parking lot has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Stephen McNeil, 21, allegedly murdered 18-year-old Danielle Hopton in the parking lot of the Whispering Pines Apartments complex on February 6 after the two got in an argument, Fort Collins Police Services said in a press release.
McNeil was arrested on February 7 and booked into the Larimer County Jail, and also faces charges for domestic violence, violation of a protection order, and violation of bail bond conditions.
Officers responded to the apartments around 11pm on February 6 after receiving a 911 call reporting an unconscious, injured woman in the parking lot.
Danielle Hopton, left, was allegedly murdered by her ex-boyfriend Stephen McNeil, right, after the two got into an argument at the Whispering Pines Apartments complex
Hopton, pictured, had been socializing with a group of friends that evening and drove to the parking lot to hang out
Hopton was murdered in the Whispering Pines Apartments complex parking lot on February 6
Hopton and her ex-boyfriend McNeil had been socializing with a group of friends that evening and drove to the parking lot to hang out, cops said.
The former couple left the car to talk when McNeil allegedly assaulted Hopton and fled the scene, while one of the friends called 911.
Cops found Hopton with ‘life-threatening injuries consistent with an assault’ and she was taken to an area hospital where she died from her injuries.
The Larimer County Coroner’s Office has ruled her death a homicide and said it will release her cause of death on a later date.
Another friend, Ian Rayas, has also been arrested as an accessory to the crime after he denied knowing Hopton or what caused her injuries when he was interviewed by cops at the scene and through the investigation, despite evidence proving otherwise.
Sgt. Heather Moore, who leads the Crimes Against Persons Unit, encouraged people who have been affected by abuse to reach out to law enforcement and other community resources ‘to help end the cycle of violence.’
‘Domestic violence happens all too frequently, and it affects people of all ages in many communities,’ she said.
Investigations Lieutenant Jeremy Yonce said the department will continue to work diligently ‘to support her family and seek justice.’
Hopton’s family said she was involved in sports including hiking, water and snow skiing, swimming, horseback riding, golfing, and tennis
Hopton, pictured, had recently decided she wanted to be an elementary school teacher like her mom Justine
Hopton was remembered in her obituary as ‘beautiful inside and out’ and a GoFundMe has been set up for charity in her honor
‘This heinous act of violence took a woman’s life and forever changed the lives of her loved ones,’ he said.
Hopton was remembered in her obituary as ‘beautiful inside and out.’
‘She was a quiet, kind, and gentle soul, who always preferred listening to others, rather than talking about herself,’ her obituary reads.
‘She grew up participating in many activities and sports, like writing, traveling (especially to a warm beach), hiking, water and snow skiing, swimming, horseback riding, golfing, and playing tennis for Fossil Ridge High School.’
Hopton volunteered with the Larimer Humane Society from 2013 to 2017 and helped her father Brent raise a few puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Danielle Hopton, who volunteered with her family at Larimer Humane Society from 2013 – 2017,’ the Humane Society posted on Facebook.
Hopton had recently decided she wanted to be an elementary school teacher like her mom Justine, according to her obituary.
‘Danielle always cared deeply about every living creature, especially those who are disadvantaged,’ her obituary reads.
‘She thought she could change one person at a time to make the world a better place, but sadly, she was too naive to understand you cannot change every person.’
Hoptons family have asked those interested to donate their time and money to abused women shelters, animal shelters and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Her family has organized a GoFundMe to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind, Larimer Animal Shelter and the Crossroads Safehouse – a local organization that provides shelter and legal assistance for victims of domestic violence.
As of Tuesday night, the GoFundMe has raised more than $32,000.