Alaska woman sentenced to 99 years in murder-for-hire of "best friend"

February 20, 2024

In the summer of 2019, Anchorage woman, Denali Brehmer, then 18-years-old, was offered $9 million from a man online, posing as a Kansas millionaire, in exchange for videos and images of her raping and murdering “someone in Alaska.”

The online catfish, who called himself Tyler, was actually a 21-year-old man named Darin Schilmiller, living in Salsbury, Indiana.

Brehmer, who went by her online handle, “Angel,” and Schilmiller, or “Tyler,” were in an online relationship at the time. Schilmiller said he was willing to pay Brehmer for the videos and pictures of the killing as part of a fetish. Schilmiller had spent several months convincing Brehmer that he was a millionaire and had sent her pictures of another man.

Brehmer decided that she would murder her best friend, Cynthia Hoffman, 19, and recruited four others to help her conduct and record the murder.

Brehmer, along with 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh, 19-year-old Caleb Leyland, and two other individuals who were not named due to their age at the time of the crime, hatched a plan to lure out and kill Hoffman and collect payment in the murder-for-hire plot.

The crime was pre-meditated, and several weeks before, the group discussed splitting the payment, choosing the victim, and organizing a vehicle for the day of murder. Leyland allowed Brehmer and McIntosh  to use his vehicle to pick Hoffman up on the day of crime. He was allegedly offered $500,000 for the use of his vehicle.

Brehmer and McIntosh told Hoffman, who was developmentally disabled, that they were going on a hike together at Thunderbird Falls and invited her along.

Hoffman had planned to go to the mall that day, to spend the money she had earned working with her dad that week. Instead, she accepted the invitation to go on a hike with whom she believed to be her friends.

During the hike, she was accosted by the Brehmer and McIntosh, who bound her hands, feet, and mouth with duct-tape, and executed with her with a gunshot to the back of the head.

Records show that Brehmer was sending images to Schilmiller during the murder as he had requested.

Hoffman’s body was then dumped in the Eklutna River and her personal belongings, including her cell phone, were then destroyed. Brehmer erased her conversation history, including the images of the crime, from her phone.

Brehmer contacted Hoffman’s family, claiming the victim had been dropped off at Polar Bear Park after the hike.

On June 4, 2019, both Brehmer and McIntosh were interviewed at Anchorage Police Department. McIntosh confessed to fatally shooting Hoffman and was arrested on First Degree murder charges. Brehmer initially denied planning and taking part in the slaying, but evidence proved otherwise, and she eventually confessed.

One by one the friends confessed to knowing of, or being part of, the murder-for-hire plot.

on June 9, 2019, Schilmiller admitted to soliciting Brehmer and lying about his identity. He confessed to knowing the details of the plan, as well as receiving images of the murder. Shockingly, he also confessed that he and Brehmer had plans to kill another individual.

Schilmiller was sentenced to 99 years in prison in January 2024 for his role in Hoffman's murder.

He pleaded guilty to one count of “solicitation to commit murder in the first degree,” as well as a federal charge of “conspiracy to produce child pornography.”

Brehmer also pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the first degree last week, she too was sentenced to 99 years on prison.

Prosecutor Patrick McKay Jr. told the court: "The Court should find that Miss Brehmer engaged in one of the most serious crimes that we have in Alaska. She executed Cynthia Hoffman in a murder-for-hire plot. She conspired with numerous other individuals in and outside of Alaska, including juveniles, forever altering everybody’s life.” McKay added, She may not have pulled the trigger, but this never would have happened it if it weren’t for Denali Brehmer.”

Judge Andrew Peterson acknowledged that Brehmer was a teenager at the time of crime, however, could not ignore the severity of the orchestrated murder plan, and after viewing the distressing video evidence of the victim duct taped on the ground, gave Brehmer the maximum sentence for her crime.

Peterson said of Brehmer: “This was intentional, premeditated murder-for-hire,” Peterson said at Schilmiller sentencing. “You plotted with other co-defendants to kill somebody you never met for no reason other than the sheer thrill of controlling others and seeing it be done.”

Mcintosh is yet to stand trial but is expected to do so in the near future.

The two remaining parties, who were juveniles at the time of the crime and remain unnamed in the media, will be processed through the juvenile courts.

Sources: [X][X][X]

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