This February 7, in Fort Collins, it rains on the city as it weeps in the hearts of the inhabitants of this commune of Colorado once elected “The most pleasant place to live in the United States”. The day before, a drama took place. It’s 11 p.m. when a resident of the Whispering Pines Apartments comes home, parks his car, turns off the engine, and gets out of his vehicle sated with the sandwiches he and his friends have eaten. As he walks towards the entrance of the residence, he sees a shadow on the asphalt of the parking lot.
He approaches. A young blonde woman with disheveled hair is lying face down on the ground, motionless in a puddle of blood. Distraught, he dials 911. Arriving at the scene, the police discover the bruised body of Danielle Hopton. She was beaten to death and, despite her prompt treatment at the hospital, she died a few hours later. Nothing predestined this pretty blonde, always flirtatious, always smiling, pride of her family, to such a dramatic fate.
Two months before he killed Danielle, his killer had been charged with attempted strangulation
“She was a calm, kind and gentle young girl. She grew up here being involved in many sports activities. She volunteered and helped her father raise puppies to be guides for the blind,” recalls her mother, Justine, in her obituary. It doesn’t take long for investigators to arrest the prime suspect, 20-year-old Stephen McNeil. He is the victim’s ex-boyfriend, with whom he was studying in high school. She, a brilliant student who is destined to become a teacher like her mother, and he, the leader of the high school football and running team, seemed to form the ideal couple, the alliance of the prom queen and the sportsman of the year. But the boy also had his dark side.
In December, two months before the tragedy, he was arrested and charged with assaulting someone and trying to strangle him. Then again in January, for a similar offense, before being released on bail. On the night of the murder, Danielle finds herself with Stephen and a group of friends. The evening is mild and the merry troupe have a few drinks in one of the bars in the city where they usually do. “Several of them then decide to go to an apartment to continue the party” explains the police. The two young people are among those who do not want to go to bed.
“He started hitting Danielle with his hands and feet all the time”
According to one of the members of the group, tensions seem to agitate the couple when Danielle and Stephen get, with Ian Rayas, the best friend of Stephen, in the car which brings them to the apartment. “When they got out of the car, Stephen was like crazy, and that’s where the assault took place. He started hitting Danielle like a deaf man, with his hands, feet, continuously, until she does not move, “reports Sergeant Heather Moore, in charge of the case. The very next day, the criminal was arrested and jailed for attempted homicide, domestic violence and violation of a protection order and violation of the conditions of his bail.
In the current state of the investigation, Stephen would have gone after Danielle, because he would not have supported her no longer wanting him. He faces life imprisonment. Ian Rayas, Stephen’s boyfriend who was with the victim and his executioner in the car, was also arrested. At first, he said he had no idea what had happened. Faced with the evidence of his presence in the parking lot at the time of the beatings, he was charged with non-assistance to a person in danger, but also for complicity, the young man having tried to influence a police officer in order to protect the murderer.
“My daughter thought she could change a person to make the world a better place”
The day after the tragedy, in the fifth city of the state, we mourn the ruined life of Danielle. “My daughter thought she could change a person to make the world a better place, but unfortunately she was too naive to understand that you can’t change everyone,” says inconsolably the one from whom her daughter was stolen.
“Domestic violence is all too common and affects people of all ages in many communities,” Sgt Moore said in a statement. “If you or someone you know is affected by this type of abuse, please contact us. We can help you end the cycle of violence. ” Sadly, no hand was extended to Danielle on the fateful evening she died from ending a childhood romance.
Danielle Hopton © Gofundme