Teenagers in Alaska are facing murder charges after allegedly shooting a 19-year-old and dumping her body in a river at the behest of an internet fraudster who offered money for the footage.
Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman’s “best friend” Denali Brehmer, 18, invited her to go hiking and allegedly lured her to her death in Anchorage on June 2 as part of the sick scheme, authorities said in a bail memorandum obtained by HuffPost.
Brehmer’s friend, 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh, joined Brehmer and Hoffman during the hike. McIntosh allegedly helped bind Hoffman with tape and then shot her in her head when they reached their destination, Thunderbird Falls. Afterward, they allegedly dumped Hoffman’s body into the nearby Eklutna River.
Authorities said Brehmer texted Hoffman’s family and said they were dropping her off at a park. She and McIntosh allegedly then burned Hoffman’s belongings at another location.
“The only thing I know is that my daughter trusted these people,” Hoffman’s father, Timothy Hoffman, said in court on June 10. “My daughter just wanted friends, and now I have to bury her, and that is wrong.”
He told the Anchorage Daily News that his daughter was vulnerable due to a developmental disability. “Her disability just made her want to have friends,” he said. “That’s all she wanted, was just to be her friend.”
A bio on Cynthia Hoffman’s apparent Facebook page reads: “I LOVE HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS AND GOING OUT AND GOING SHOPPING.”
Authorities say 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller of New Salisbury, Indiana, convinced Brehmer to carry out and film Hoffman’s killing by offering Brehmer at least $9 million after they started talking online a few weeks earlier. He told her his name was Tyler and provided Brehmer with a fake photo, saying he lived in Kansas.
“He does not look like the young man he portrayed himself to look like, he is not a millionaire, and he lives in Indiana,” prosecutors noted in the memorandum. “This practice of assuming a fake identity to engage in online relationships is a practice commonly referred to as ‘catfishing.’”
McIntosh and three others suspects, whom authorities identified as 19-year-old Caleb Leyland and two juveniles, allegedly agreed to help Brehmer carry out the killing while believing that they’d receive a cut of the payment. It’s not clear what role these defendants had in the killing.
Authorities searched Brehmer’s cell phone and uncovered sexually explicit photos and text messages between her and Schilmiller, as well as directions from Schilmiller on how she should sexually assault a child for his viewing pleasure.
Schilmiller was arrested on child pornography charges and will be extradited to Alaska to face additional charges in Hoffman’s death, federal prosecutors said last week.
Upon his arrest, Schilmiller allegedly said he chose Hoffman as Brehmer’s victim and that they discussed murdering someone else after Hoffman but abandoned the plan. He admitted to trying to blackmail Brehmer into raping people as well, prosecutors said.
It wasn’t until after Brehmer’s arrest that she learned that “Tyler” wasn’t the person she thought he was, according to authorities.
“Once Brehmer realized she had been catfished by Schilmiller, she ultimately admitted to being solicited by Schilmiller to commit the murder and that the murder was planned,” prosecutors said.
All six defendants have been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree conspiracy to commit murder, and two counts of second-degree murder.
Schilmiller and Brehmer have also been indicted on first-degree solicitation to commit murder.
Brehmer was also indicted on a count of tampering with physical evidence and McIntosh was indicted on four counts of tampering with physical evidence.
Leyland is also accused of sexually assaulting the juvenile female suspect and faces additional charges of sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor. McIntosh faces similar charges.
In a June 8 court appearance, Brehmer appeared to confess to wrongdoing, telling the room: “I know what I did was wrong and I know I could have probably done something different if I was able to, and I don’t want my daughter knowing that her mom grew up to be a killer because I don’t see myself as one.”
Brehmer’s half-sister, Rebekah Langdon, told the Daily News that Brehmer had a baby who was put up for adoption.