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Court Sentences Alaska Woman to 99 Years for Killing Friend in $9 Million Murder-for-Hire Scheme

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A court sentenced an Alaska woman who admitted to killing her “best friend” to 99 years behind bars on Monday, February 19, 2024. According to court documents, the woman murdered her friend in a murder-for-hire scheme after someone “catfished” her for images of the crime, offering to pay $9 million.

A picture of woman sentenced in murder-for-hire scheme
Source: people/X

Denali Brehmer, now 23, is one of the two young teenagers charged in a June 2019 murder case. She pleaded guilty in February 2023 to first-degree murder, admitting that she had killed 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman. Court documents show that Brehmer was 18 when the incident happened. 

21-year-old Darin Schilmiller, who pretended to be a millionaire named “Tyler,” catfished her and two other teens online. Schilmiller reportedly offered the teens $9m and persuaded them to sexually assault and kill Hoffman. He offered them the money for the “rape and murder of someone in Alaska.”

In addition, the Indiana man told the teens to send him photos and videos as they committed the heinous crime. After her conversation with Schilmiller, Brehmer agreed to the offer. She enlisted the help of four friends, Caleb Leyland, Kayden Mclntosh, and two unnamed juveniles.

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Afterward, Brehmer and her alleged accomplices lured Hoffman to Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, an unincorporated community in Anchorage. They lured Hoffman under the guise of a friendly hike, and she unsuspectingly fell for it. During the hike, Brehmer and her accomplices duct-taped Hoffman. 

Then, officials said they shot her in the back of the head with a 9mm pistol. Also, they sent multiple Snapchat videos and images to Schilmiller before pushing Hoffman’s body into the Eklutna River. Furthermore, authorities stated that the group tried to burn Hoffman’s body.

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However, they texted her family about dropping her off elsewhere instead. The police found Hoffman’s body one day after her family reported her missing. Afterward, officials charged the group. They charged Mclntosh, who was 16 at the time, with murder for allegedly shooting Hoffman in the head. 

However, his case is pending trial. Meanwhile, the Alaska  Department of Law said in a release following the trial that  Brehmer bagged the maximum sentence for her role in the killing. “The court should find that Miss Brehmer engaged in one of the most serious crimes that we have in Alaska,” Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Patrick McKay said.

“She executed Cynthia Hoffman in a murder-for-hire plot.” He added, “She conspired with numerous other individuals in and outside of Alaska, including juveniles, forever altering everybody’s life.” While speaking during the sentencing, McKay noted that Brehmer didn’t pull the trigger.

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“She may not have pulled the trigger,” he said. “But this never would have happened if it weren’t for Denali Brehmer.” Similarly, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson called the killing “tragic and senseless.” Furthermore, he said Brehmer showed no remorse and hoped her sentence would deter others.

In January 2024, officials extradited Schilmiller to Alaska. He bagged 99 years after pleading guilty to soliciting a murder to fulfill his sick fetishes. Another person involved in the case, Caleb Leyland, also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November 2023. Authorities say his sentencing will be held on June 10, 2024.

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