Investigators in Alaska have pieced together the tragic murder of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman. The young woman was murdered by five other teenagers after one of them, 18-year-old Denali Brehmer, was allegedly offered millions of dollars for photos of the killing by a 21-year-old man in Indiana who was pretending to be a millionaire.
It all started when Brehmer met “Tyler” (real name, Darin Schilmiller) online and began a relationship. Tyler said he was from Kansas, but he was actually from New Salisbury, Indiana, and sent Brehmer a photograph of another man claiming it was him. Schilmiller looked nothing like the young man in the photo. Tyler claimed to be a millionaire, but he was not. This is known as “catfishing.”
Weeks before Hoffman was murdered, Brehmer and Schilmiller “began discussing a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska,” court documents posted by The Anchorage Daily News said. Schilmiller offered Brehmer $9 million or more to murder someone and send him photos and videos of the crime. Brehmer agreed.
Brehmer then recruited four of her friends — 19-year-old Caleb Leyland ,16-year-old Kayden McIntosh, and two others who are too young to name — to help commit the murder. Each was promised a share of the $9 million. Leyland, who allegedly lent his car for use in the killing, said he was offered $500,000.
The friends gathered in either May or early June 2019 to plan the murder of Hoffman, whom Brehmer had once described as her “best friend.” On June 2, 2019, Brehmer, McIntosh, and Hoffman traveled to Thunderbird Falls. Hoffman thought the three were going for a hike. Instead, Hoffman’s hands and feet were bound, and duct tape was wrapped around her head to cover her mouth. McIntosh allegedly shot Hoffman in the back of the head with Brehmer’s gun. Hoffman’s body was then pushed into the Eklutna River.
Brehmer sent photos and videos of the killing to Schilmiller over Snapchat, which were obtained by police. Brehmer and McIntosh then allegedly burned Hoffman’s belongings and sent texts to her parents saying she had been dropped off at Polar Bear Park in Anchorage.
Brehmer and McIntosh were questioned on June 4. At that time McIntosh confessed to the shooting. Brehmer at first claimed she didn’t know McIntosh was going to kill Hoffman.
After the Snapchat information was discovered, Brehmer confessed on June 7, 2019.
Brehmer did not realize she had been catfished until after the murder.
Schilmiller admitted to his role in the murder on June 9. He told police he chose Hoffman as the victim, planned the murder with Brehmer for three weeks, and that he had convinced Brehmer by promising to pay her millions of dollars for the crime. He also said he and Brehmer discussed another murder, but the pair didn’t follow through. Schilmiller also admitted to blackmailing Brehmer after the murder by having her sexually assault girls aged 8 to 15. Schilmiller was arrested on federal child pornography charges since he asked Brehmer to send him pictures of the assaults, according to the Daily News. “He is awaiting extradition to Alaska on a $1 million arrest warrant,” the outlet reported.