FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The Larimer County Coroner has identified a teenager found badly injured in a parking lot on the 500 block of East Drake Road Feb. 6.
Investigators said Danielle Hopton, 18, suffered "life-threatening injuries consistent with assault." Hopton was take to a nearby hospital and died from her injuries.
Police arrested 20-year-old Stephen Darwin McNeil the following day. He's being held for investigation of first-degree murder, domestic violence, violation of a protection order and violation of bond.
Hopton was a 2020 graduate of Fossil Ridge High School, where she earned an academic letter. The suspect attended the same school and was a member of the Class of 2019.
The Larimer County Coroner hasn't released Hopton's cause of death yet. Police aren't releasing any more details.
Court records show that McNeil had previously run afoul of the law. He was arrested in December for second-degree assault - strangulation. The judge in that case issued a mandatory restraining order.
"We are devastated by the news and are so sorry for Danielle’s family and her friends," said Pam Jones, executive director of Crossroads Safehouse.
Jones said they're seeing far more cases of domestic violence where lives are being threatened than in the past.
"Typically, here, we see six a year," she said. "And in this pandemic, we see three to four a week because of the circumstances presented by COVID-19."
Jones said it doesn't matter whether it happens in Fort Collins, Larimer County or anywhere else in the nation, when her staff learns about a situation like Hopton's, they grieve.
"They try so hard to make a difference in the lives of victims of domestic violence, and when we see something like this happen, we’ll turn inside," she said.
Jones added that Crossroads is more than a shelter.
"We have a domestic abuse team, an internal law firm — the Bringing Justice Home Project — Youth Victim Services Outreach and Prevention, a bi-lingual program and Road to Home — rapid rehousing."
She said Crossroads serves more than 3,500 clients a year.
Jones said her staff reaches out to high school students with their "Time to Help" talk.
"It helps high schoolers understand about healthy relationships and red flags," she said. "The high school students who knew [Danielle] are likely highly affected by this and are trying to understand how they can take care of themselves."
Jones said lethality cases, where someone's life is threatened, are particularly difficult.
"If they’ve been threatened with a weapon, they are 20 times more likely to be murdered by the perpetrator," Jones said, adding that anyone who feels vulnerable by a domestic situation, or who is triggered by what happened, should call their hotline, (970) 482-3502.
She said trained advocates can help victims make choices that will help them stay safe. The Crossroads staff understands what Danielle's family and friends are going through.
"We understand it more than we’d like to," she said. "We’d like to work our way out of a job, but this is what it is. We’ll do for the community what we can to help."
A friend initially set up a GoFundMe account to help Danielle and her family. Now, she said the money raised will be split equally between Guide Dogs for the Blind, Larimer Humane Society, where Danielle and her family volunteered from 2013 to 2017, and Crossroads Safehouse.
To learn more about signs of abuse and resources available visit the Crossroads website.
- Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families.
- Childhood trauma is linked to problems like depression, alcoholism, heart disease, cancer, suicide, substance abuse and more.
- Domestic violence affects families across demographic and socioeconomic spectrums.
- According to NCADV, 36.8% of Colorado women and 30.5% of men will experience intimate partner violence and/or stalking in their lives.
- If an abuser has access to a firearm, the risk of intimate partner homicide increases five-fold.