Fort Collins police arrest man they say lied about 18-year-old woman’s homicide

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Editor’s note: This story contains references to domestic violence. Information about domestic violence warning signs and resources for those in crisis is available at the end of this story.

A second person has been arrested in connection with the homicide of an 18-year-old Fort Collins woman after police say he lied to them about what he witnessed. 

Danielle Hopton, 18, died Sunday from injuries sustained in an assault that occurred late Saturday night in the 500 block of Drake Road, according to police. The Larimer County Coroner’s Office ruled her death a homicide.

Police identified Stephen McNeil, 20, as the suspect. He was arrested Sunday and faces charges of first-degree murder, two counts of violation of bail conditions, and violation of a criminal protection order.

Ian Rayas, 20, was then arrested Thursday on suspicion of attempt to influence a public servant and accessory to a crime — both Class 4 felonies. 

The night of the attack, investigators say a group of friends were socializing, including Hopton, McNeil and Rayas. The group drove to an apartment complex in the 500 block of Drake Road to hang out.

McNeil and Hopton had previously been in a relationship, police said in the news release Friday. When the group parked, the pair got out of the vehicle to talk, and that’s when the assault occurred, according to police. McNeil left the scene, and another member of the group called 911.

Rayas, 20, told investigators he did not know either person and that he had no information about what or who caused Hopton’s injuries. After obtaining evidence that indicated his statement might not be true, police arrested Rayas. 

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Rayas’ booking photograph was not immediately available Friday afternoon. The Coloradoan has requested it.

Rayas has two other open misdemeanor cases in Larimer County, according to online court records.

A GoFundMe for Hopton’s family has raised more than $26,000 as of Friday afternoon. The funds raised will be donated in Hopton’s honor to Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Larimer County Humane Society and Crossroads Safehouse, according to the fundraising page.

“Domestic violence happens all too frequently, and it affects people of all ages in many communities,” Sgt. Heather Moore said in a news release. “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.”

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McNeil remains in Larimer County Jail with no bond. He is next scheduled to appear in court on April 2. 

Rayas was released from jail after posting his $450 bond Friday, according to court records. His next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday. 

Those with information about this incident who have not already spoken to police are asked to call Cpl. Tessa Jakobsson at 970-221-6575. Those who want to stay anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers of Larimer County at 970-221-6868 or www.stopcriminals.org.

All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in court. Arrests and charges are merely accusations by law enforcement until, and unless, a suspect is convicted of a crime.

Domestic violence warning signs

Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse that can include physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial elements where the abuser’s conscious or unconscious goal is to gain or maintain control. There are not always physical signs of abuse.

Girls and young women ages 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence.

Early warning signs of an abusive partner include: 

  • Controlling behavior
  • Guilt trips
  • Threats
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation 
  • Jealousy
  • Name-calling
  • Manipulation
  • Explosive temper
  • Mood swings
  • Checking your cellphone or email without permission

Help for people in crisis

If you or someone you care about is in a domestic violence situation, call Crossroads Safehouse’s 24/7 helplines, which are staffed by trained advocates: 970-482-3502 or 888-541-7233 (toll free). You can also call Alternatives to Violence at 970-669-5150.

Other available resources for people in crisis include:

Sady Swanson covers public safety, criminal justice, Larimer County government and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at sswanson@coloradoan.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.