A Fake Social Media Scam But A Real Murder For Hire Plot In Alaska

How a Fake Social Media Profile Induced Teens Online to Commit a Murder for Hire!

Authors:
•  SCARS Editorial Team – Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Portions Alaska Department of Law, KTUU, and other sources

About This Article

The chilling murder-for-hire plot in Alaska involving Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, which resulted in the tragic death of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman, highlights the dangerous consequences of online deception and manipulation, particularly in the context of ‘catfishing’ schemes.

Brehmer, along with her accomplices, was induced by an Indiana man, Darin Schilmiller, who offered a false promise of $9 million in exchange for photos and videos of Hoffman’s murder.

Despite not being the one to pull the trigger, Brehmer’s pivotal role in orchestrating the murder led to her sentencing of 99 years in prison.

The case raises concerns about the manipulation tactics employed online and the potential for vulnerable individuals, like Brehmer, to be coerced into committing heinous crimes.

As the details unfold, questions emerge about the extent of manipulation and control exerted by Schilmiller over Brehmer, underscoring the need for greater awareness and vigilance in combating online exploitation and crime.

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The Strange Case of the ‘Catfish’ Murder of an Alaska Teen – Just Because They Could!

A young Alaska woman, 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman was murdered near Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, Alaska as a result of a social media fake profile.

The murder was carried out by Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, who has been sentenced to 99 years in prison for her involvement in the chilling murder plot fueled by deception in an online ‘catfishing’ scheme, though the actual murder was performed by one of her companions Kayden McIntosh.

A third person, in Indiana, contracted for the murder through an impersonation scheme. That person, Darin Schilmiller, falsely promised Brehmer a staggering $9 million reward in exchange for photos and videos of Hoffman’s murder.

Court documents showed that Brehmer, then 18, struck up an online relationship with 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller, who was living in Indiana. Schilmiller claimed to be a millionaire and said he would send Brehmer $9 million in exchange for photos and videos of a killing. He did not name a target. Apparently, he solicited a murder just for fun using a fake social media profile to do it.

Brehmer allegedly offered four other friends a cut of the money if they helped her, and Brehmer and then-16-year-old Kayden McIntosh allegedly lured Hoffman (the murder victim) on a hike. During the hike, Hoffman was shot in the back of the head and put into a river by Kayden McIntosh. Police found Hoffman’s body one day after she was reported missing. McIntosh’s trial in the case is pending.

Brehmer, now 23, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in February 2023 and has just been sentenced after charges of conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation of murder, tampering with evidence, and murder in the second degree were dismissed. Nearly a year later, her sentencing occurred over three days in January and February 2024. The 99-year sentence was the maximum penalty the court was permitted to impose, according to a news release from Alaska’s Department of Law.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson called Hoffman’s murder “tragic and senseless” and noted that Brehmer showed no remorse after the murder and went on to engage in other criminal conduct at Schilmiller’s request.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Schilmiller and Brehmer also conspired to coerce a minor to produce sexually explicit images. Last summer, the two pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to produce child pornography.

Caleb Leyland, another friend involved in the murder-for-hire scheme, pleaded guilty to one charge of second-degree murder in November 2023 after charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder were dismissed. His sentencing is scheduled for June in front of the same judge who sentenced Brehmer.

McIntosh allegedly said that he “shot CeeCee” (the victim) and pushed her “twitching” body into a river, so he “does not know if she died from the gunshot wound or from drowning,” alleges the complaint.

In his final remarks earlier, McKay said that while Brehmer may not have fired the bullet that ended Cynthia’s life, she bore the brunt of the responsibility for the heinous act.

“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, Jr. said at the sentencing hearing. “She may not have pulled the trigger, but this never would have happened it if it weren’t for Denali Brehmer.”

The Anchorage Police Department (APD) said in a statement that they later learned an Indiana man they identified as Darin Mitchell Schilmiller allegedly offered to pay Brehmer “$9 million or more to commit the murder and send him videos and/or photographs of the murder.”

Very Strange

Who is the accused contractor killer Darin Schilmiller? Former classmates of catfishing/impersonating ‘millionaire’-turned-murder suspect talk about disturbing past.

Darin Schilmiller, a 2017 graduate of North Harrison High School in Indiana is under arrest in a gruesome murder-for-hire killing carried out by teenagers in Alaska. State of Alaska prosecutors say 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller of New Salisbury, a small, rural farming community near Indiana’s southern border with Kentucky, “is one of the primary actors in Ms. Hoffman’s murder.”

It appears that he had a history of creating fake online profiles to lure in others. News media found numerous online profiles for Schilmiller spanning many years across multiple social media platforms. The common themes? A strong desire to find friends and connect with women.

According to one person who knew him “He didn’t want to do anything bad, he just didn’t understand life!”

The Murder of Cynthia Hoffman – Video courtesy of KTUU Alaska

Manipulation?

What we do not know in this case, because it was not mentioned in court was what, if any, manipulation was used by Schilmiller to control Brehmer.

However, knowing what we know about the psychology of online crime across social media, we have to wonder if manipulation was a factor. Could Brehmer have been controlled to engage in the acts involved in the murder? But we know it is certainly possible since scammers can manipulate victims into committing crimes all the time, though none (that we know of) is as severe as this one.

But that just raises more questions. Could there be other cases where teens can be manipulated into performing other types of crimes? Unfortunately, we will have to wait and see.

The Sentencing of Brehmer & Schilmiller

Brehmer, 23, received her sentence on Monday for her role in the tragic death of her best friend, Cynthia Hoffman. The crime unfolded after an Indiana man,  In a disturbing turn of events, Brehmer and her accomplices lured Hoffman to a remote hiking trail before fatally shooting her in the head. Despite not pulling the trigger herself, Brehmer’s actions were pivotal in the execution of the crime. This case sheds light on the dangers of online deception and manipulation, emphasizing the devastating consequences of falling victim to catfishing schemes.

The charges against Schilmiller stem from the June 2, 2019 murder of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman near Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, Alaska. The murder of Hoffman involved a group of teenagers who are accused of being “catfished” by Schilmiller, an Indiana resident, to commit the crime for money. As part of the agreement, Schilmiller signed an affidavit admitting to a statement of facts surrounding the incident. The case was investigated by the Anchorage Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of multiple other State and federal law enforcement agencies.

Darin Schilmiller Sentenced to 99 years for Murder of Cynthia Hoffman at Thunderbird Falls

According to the State of Alaska Department of Law:

25-year-old Darin Mitchell Schilmiller of New Salisbury, Indiana, was sentenced by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson for the murder of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman near Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, Alaska.

Schilmiller previously pleaded guilty to one count of Solicitation to Commit Murder in the First Degree. Evidence presented at sentencing shows that on June 2, 2019, Cynthia Hoffman was shot and killed on the banks of the Eklutna River near Thunderbird Falls. Afterward, Hoffman’s body was placed into the Eklutna River. Ultimately it was discovered that Schilmiller had solicited the murder of Hoffman from then 18-year-old Denali Brehmer in Anchorage. Schilmiller also solicited child pornography from Brehmer; conduct that led to additional charges by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Schilmiller’s sentencing occurred over three days. At sentencing, the State and Schilmiller both presented evidence. The court was permitted to sentence Schilmiller to a sentence of active imprisonment between 5 and 99 years. The State requested a sentence of 99 years with none suspended and an order restricting Schilmiller’s eligibility for discretionary parole. Schilmiller requested a sentence of 70 years with 20 years suspended. Several members of Cynthia Hoffman’s family provided victim impact statements at sentencing. Her father, Timothy Hoffman, described her as his “right hand man.” Her uncles described her as precious, vibrant, beautiful, and fun loving.

Judge Peterson called the case “extremely sad” and “shocking.” He described it as a premeditated murder-for-hire that was an “assassination” of Cynthia Hoffman. Judge Peterson found that Schilmiller’s conduct was among the most serious solicitation to commit first-degree murder cases and among the most serious contract killing cases. He further found that Schilmiller committed the murder “for the mere thrill of it.” Judge Peterson found Schilmiller was a “worst offender” for purposes of sentencing based on the conduct in this case and found that Schilmiller will “always be a risk to the community.” The court also expressed hope that the sentence would be a deterrence to others, recognizing that if it encourages one person to not commit a murder going forward, then it is a successful outcome.

Schilmiller was sentenced to 99 years with none suspended. In addition, he will not be eligible for discretionary parole until he has served at least 45 years of that sentence.

Multiple defendants were charged with causing Hoffman’s death. Denali Brehmer’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 12, 2024, in front of Judge Peterson. Caleb Leyland’s sentencing is scheduled for June 10, 2024, in front of Judge Peterson.

Kayden McIntosh’s case is pending trial. The charges against McIntosh are only allegations and are not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was investigated by the Anchorage Police Department’s homicide unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation based out of Alaska and Indiana, and the Indiana State Police. Schilmiller is currently in the custody of the Alaska Department of Corrections.

Denali Brehmer Sentenced to 99 years for Murder of Cynthia Hoffman at Thunderbird Falls

According to the State of Alaska Department of Law:

A 23-year-old Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, of Anchorage, was sentenced by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson for the murder of Cynthia Hoffman near Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, Alaska, on June 2, 2019.

Brehmer previously pleaded guilty to one count of Murder in the First Degree. Evidence presented at sentencing shows that on June 2, 2019, Cynthia Hoffman was shot and killed on the banks of the Eklutna River near Thunderbird Falls. Afterward, Hoffman’s body was placed into the Eklutna River. Ultimately it was discovered that Darin Schilmiller had solicited the murder of Hoffman from Brehmer in Anchorage. Schilmiller also solicited child pornography from Brehmer, conduct that led to additional federal charges.

Brehmer’s sentencing occurred over three days in January and February 2024. At sentencing, the State and Brehmer both presented evidence. The court was permitted to sentence Brehmer to a sentence of active imprisonment between 30 and 99 years. The State requested a sentence of 99 years with none suspended and a “worst offender” finding. Brehmer requested a sentence of 80 years with 20 years suspended.

“The Court should find that Miss Brehmer engaged in one of the most serious crimes that we have in Alaska,” McKay said. “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. She may not have pulled the trigger, but this never would have happened it if it weren’t for Denali Brehmer,” McKay said.

Judge Peterson called the murder of Cynthia Hoffman a premeditated murder-for-hire that was “tragic and senseless.” He stated that Brehmer’s conduct was “cold, calculated, and carried out to a ‘T’.” He found that Brehmer’s conduct was among the most serious first-degree murder cases and among the most serious contract killing cases. Judge Peterson described watching a video of Cynthia Hoffman’s last moments where she was observed duct taped on the ground at Thunderbird Falls “…one of the most difficult pieces of evidence I’ve had to watch in this position.” He noted that Brehmer showed no remorse after the murder and, in fact, went on to engage in other criminal conduct. The court also expressed hope that the sentence would be a deterrence to others.

Judge Peterson recognized that Brehmer was a youthful offender and that “youth matters” but found that Brehmer clearly knew what she was doing and that this was not some “youthful indiscretion.” Brehmer was sentenced to 99 years with none suspended and was found to be a “worst offender.”

Caleb Leyland’s sentencing is scheduled for June 10, 2024, in front of Judge Peterson.

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