By Logan Smith

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – A woman who was found fatally injured 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.

The man arrested by police following her death, 20-year-old Stephen McNeil, appeared in Larimer County District Court on Friday morning.

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Friday afternoon, Fort Collins Police Services announced the arrest of a second person, Ian Rayas, also 20, of Timnath.

The three were among a group of friends who drove to the Whispering Pines Apartments at 525 East Drake Road late Saturday night, according to a press release from Fort Collins Police Services. Investigators learned Hopton and McNeil, who had been in a relationship, stepped out of the car to talk. McNeil then allegedly assaulted Hopton. Other members of the group called 9-1-1 as McNeil left the scene, according to police.

Hopton died at the hospital.

Police arrested McNeil at noon the next day.

Rayas was questioned by investigators but denied knowing either McNeil or Hopton or anything that happened between them that night, police stated.

But investigators found “evidence to the contrary” and arrested him Thursday.

Stephen McNeil

McNeil is being held for investigation of 1st Degree Murder, Domestic Violence, Violation of a Protection Order, and Violation of Bail Bond Conditions.

The coroner’s office has not yet determined a cause of death. But in a press release from Fort Collins Police Services, her injuries were described as the result of an assault.

“This heinous act of violence took a woman’s life and forever changed the lives of her loved ones,” stated Investigations Lieutenant Jeremy Yonce in FCPS’s press release.

Rayas is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday on two felonies, including an accessory to crime charge.

Ian Rayas (credit: Vinelink)

CBS4 discovered through a search of online criminal records that McNeil was arrested in mid-December for a felony assault that involved strangulation. He was also arrested in January was for misdemeanor criminal mischief.

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McNeil bonded out of jail Jan. 22 via cash bonds totaling $2,650.

Other than to confirm the pair were in a relationship, spokespersons for the police department and the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have refused to answer questions about any connection between McNeil’s two previous arrests and the current one involving Hopton’s death.

The judge presiding over the murder case has also sealed documents in both of the previous cases.

A disposition hearing in the strangulation case is scheduled for March 4. The same is scheduled in the homicide case nearly a month later.

A GoFundMe page raising money for the Hopton family has already exceeded its $20,000 goal. On the page, Hopton was described as “a gorgeous, loving, kind and caring young woman” who volunteered at a local animal shelter and helped her father raise guide dogs for the blind.

A Facebook post from the Larimer County Humane Society confirms Hopton worked there for four years.

Information found online suggests both Hopton and McNeil attended Fossil Ridge High School. Hopton earned an academic award and graduated with the Class of 2020. McNeil apparently participated in literature, track and football.

All money raised by the Hopton’s GoFundMe is said to be split equally between Guide Dogs for the Blind, Larimer Animal Shelter, and Crossroads Safehouse.

“Domestic violence happens all too frequently, and it affects people of all ages in many communities,” said FCPS Sgt. Heather Moore, who leads the Crimes Against Persons Unit. “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.”

Crossroads Safehouse is one of those resources.

 

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Logan Smith