Alaska Woman Gets 99 Years For Catfish Killing Of Her Friend

Denali Brehmer pleaded guilty to orchestrating the murder of Cynthia Hoffman after a man posing as a millionaire online offered her $9 million for the killing.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Anchorage woman has been sentenced to 99 years in prison for orchestrating the death of a developmentally disabled woman in a murder-for-hire plot, hoping to cash in on a $9 million offer from a Midwestern man purporting to be a millionaire.

Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, 23, was sentenced by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson earlier this week in the 2019 death of her friend Cynthia Hoffman, whose death was captured in photos and video near Thunderbird Falls, a popular trail area just north of Anchorage. Brehmer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in February 2023.

“She may not have pulled the trigger, but this never would have happened it if it weren’t for Denali Brehmer,” Anchorage assistant district attorney Patrick McKay said during sentencing.

Peterson said Hoffman’s pre-meditated murder-for-hire was “tragic and senseless,” and that Brehmer showed no remorse. He said he hoped her sentence would serve as a deterrent to others.

Defense attorneys sought an 80-year sentence with 20 of those years suspended. Alaska does not have the death penalty.

Darin Schilmiller of New Salisbury, Indiana, was sentenced last month to 99 years in prison for his role in Hoffman’s murder.

Authorities in 2019 said Schilmiller posed online as “Tyler,” a millionaire from Kansas when starting an online relationship with Brehmer. About three weeks before Hoffman was killed, Brehmer and Schilmiller discussed a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska, according to court documents.

The millionaire’s only demand for payment was either photos or video of the killing.

Brehmer agreed to the offer, and enlisted the help of four friends, Caleb Leyland and Kayden McIntosh, along with two unnamed juveniles, authorities said.

Leyland will be sentenced in June. McIntosh, whom prosecutors have said was the gunman, will be tried as an adult in the case even though he was 16 when Hoffman was killed. His case is pending trial. An email seeking comment was sent to McIntosh’s lawyer.

According to court documents, the group took Hoffman to Thunderbird Falls. They went off trail and followed a path to the Eklutna River, where Hoffman was bound with duct tape, shot in the back of the head and thrown into the river. Officials said Brehmer then texted Hoffman’s family to let them know they dropped her off at an Anchorage park.

Brehmer was eventually arrested, and once she realized she had been catfished or tricked by Schilmiller, she told authorities that she had been solicited by him.

Schilmiller admitted to federal agents and the Indiana State Police that he chose Hoffman as the victim and told Brehmer to kill her, court documents said.

He said Brehmer communicated with him throughout Hoffman’s killing and sent Snapchat photos and videos of Hoffman while bound and after she was killed.

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