[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
Police have arrested a 20-year-old Colorado man for the alleged deadly assault of his ex-girlfriend.
According to Fort Collins Police, 18-year-old Danielle Hopton was beaten to death on February 6 in the parking lot of a local apartment complex after meeting there with a group of friends to hang out. Police received a 911 call about an unconscious, injured woman in the parking lot, the department said in a release, and found the teen in the parking lot “with life-threatening injuries consistent with an assault.” She was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she died as a result of her injuries.
Detectives went on to identify Stephen McNeil (pictured above) as a suspect in her killing, say police in the release. The release stated:
“He and the victim knew each other… [McNeil and Hopton] had previously been in a relationship.”
The pair both went to Fossil Ridge High School, per CBS4. Hopton reportedly graduated with the Class of 2020 with an academic award, while McNeil was part of the track and football teams.
Officers found McNeil hours after the alleged assault and took him into custody without incident. He was booked into the Larimer County Jail on charges of first-degree murder, domestic violence, violation of a protection order, and violation of bail bond conditions. Investigations Lieutenant Jeremy Yonce said on the heels of the arrest:
“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.”
Court records reportedly show that McNeil had also been arrested in December and charged with a felony assault involving strangulation. He was arrested in January and charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief, per CBS4, but was released from jail on January 22 on $2,650 in cash bonds.
Upon further investigation, officials discovered that “a group of friends,” including Hopton, McNeil, and another man, Ian Rayas, “had been socializing that night,” according to the release, which states:
“Several of the people eventually drove to an apartment complex at 525 E. Drake Road and parked to hang out. Hopton and McNeil got out of the vehicle to talk and the assault occurred. McNeil left the scene, and a member of the group called 911.”
Police allege Rayas falsely denied knowing what happened. The 20-year-old was booked into the Larimer County Jail on felony charges of attempt to influence a public servant and accessory to a crime.
Meanwhile, Danielle’s loved ones are reeling over her tragic death. A GoFundMe page has been set up for the animal shelter worker’s family, where friends have been donating and paying tribute to the longtime animal lover, who has been described as “a gorgeous, loving, kind and caring young woman.”
Our hearts go out to the victim’s family at this difficult time.
[Image via Larimer County Sheriff’s Office]