ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An 18-year-old Alaska woman has been charged, along with four other teens, in the slaying of her best friend after a man she met online promised her $9 million for footage of the homicide, authorities said.
Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, of Anchorage, is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in the June 2 death of Cynthia "CeeCee" Hoffman. According to the Anchorage Police Department, Hoffman, 19, was lured to the bank of the Eklutna River along the Thunderbird Falls hiking trail, where she was bound and gagged with duct tape, shot once in the back of the head and thrown into the river.
Also indicted in the homicide is Darin Schilmiller, 21, of New Salisbury, Indiana, who officials with the Alaska Department of Law allege masterminded the killing. Schilmiller, who met Brehmer online while posing as a Kansas millionaire named Tyler, offered her millions of dollars to rape and kill someone and send him videos and photographs of the crime, Alaskan court documents say.
Schilmiller admitted to investigators that he chose Hoffman as the victim, a bail memorandum in the case states. He knew that Hoffman, who KTVA in Anchorage reported had a learning disability, was Brehmer's best friend.
“Schilmiller further admitted he and Brehmer discussed murdering another person after Hoffman, but that the plan was ultimately abandoned,” the document says.
Brehmer and Schilmiller, who used a stranger’s photo as his own when they met online, spent three weeks before the killing planning the crime, according to the bail memorandum.
He faces the same charges as Brehmer, minus the tampering charge, the Department of Law reported in a news release. Schilmiller is also charged federally with production of child pornography and attempted receipt of child pornography for allegedly having Brehmer, who goes by the nickname Angel, sexually assault two young girls.
The bail memorandum states Schilmiller admitted he blackmailed Brehmer into assaulting the girls -- an 8- or 9-year-old and a 15-year-old, after Hoffman’s killing.
Four others are charged in Hoffman’s death, including Kayden Bryan McIntosh, 16, of Anchorage, who is accused of pulling the trigger.
McIntosh, Caleb Allen Russell Leyland, 19, and two other Anchorage teens identified only as John Doe 06022019 and Jane Doe 06022019, were reportedly recruited by Brehmer to help her commit the murder.
"In exchange, all of them would receive a significant sum of money for their part in the planning and/or execution of the murder," the Department of Law news release stated.
McIntosh, Leyland and the two unnamed teens are charged with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. McIntosh is additionally charged with four counts of evidence tampering, authorities said.
"If convicted at trial, the defendants face a sentence of up to 99 years' imprisonment for each of the murder charges, the conspiracy to commit murder charge and the solicitation to commit murder charge," the Anchorage police news release stated. "In addition, Brehmer and McIntosh face up to five years' imprisonment for each of the tampering with physical evidence charges."
Police statements and court documents paint a disturbing picture of Hoffman’s fate at the hands of Brehmer and McIntosh, who investigators allege took her to Thunderbird Falls on the ruse of going on a hike. According to police officials, a family member of Hoffman’s called authorities around 11:30 a.m. on June 3 and reported she had not come home the night before.
KTVA identified the family member as Hoffman's father, Timothy Hoffman. The distraught father also called the news station that same day, frustrated that the police had not sent out a communitywide alert about his daughter being missing.
"Timothy Hoffman said his daughter had a learning disability and the mindset of a 12-year-old," the news station reported.
Hoffman told police his daughter was last seen by a friend at Polar Bear Park around 4 p.m. the day before, wearing blue jeans, a hoodie and tennis shoes, an Anchorage Police Department news release said.
As officers began looking for Hoffman, they learned that her friend, Brehmer, was lying to Hoffman’s family. Part of what they learned came via Brehmer’s mother, Nicole House.
“House indicated that her daughter, Denali Brehmer, and a friend she thought was named ‘Anthony’ were at her home the night of June 2. House stated that Brehmer and ‘Anthony’ told her that ‘Anthony’ had shot CeeCee in the head and pushed her in the water,” a criminal complaint in the case states.
On June 4, homicide detectives went to Brehmer herself, who told investigators that she, McIntosh and Hoffman had been smoking marijuana together the day of the slaying before driving toward Anchorage. They stopped along the way in a parking lot near Thunderbird Falls, a hiking area near the city.
“They walked into the woods and were playing around in the woods,” the complaint states. “The three of them agreed to duct tape each other and take photographs.”
Brehmer told detectives Hoffman, who was bound by her ankles and wrists and had duct tape over her mouth, began to panic, at which time they removed the tape from her mouth and hands.
“CeeCee began to tell them she was going to call the police and tell them that they had kidnapped her and sexually assaulted her,” Brehmer claimed, according to police.
Brehmer, who said she had a 9 mm handgun in her hand, told detectives McIntosh took the gun from her and shot Hoffman in the head.
“CeeCee was still on the ground and Brehmer believes she was trying to call police,” the complaint says. “Brehmer saw CeeCee twitching before McIntosh pushed her in the creek.”
Though Brehmer initially denied prior knowledge of the shooting, she later told investigators that after Hoffman was tied up, “she handed (McIntosh) the gun and told him to shoot her because she couldn’t do it, and he shot her,” court documents say.
The bail memorandum states that Brehmer was in contact with Schilmiller throughout the crime. Schilmiller told detectives Brehmer sent him Snapchat images of Hoffman tied up before her death and of her body afterward, according to the document.
Read the bail memorandum in the case below.
“Digital evidence and statements show Brehmer was communicating with and sending videos and/or photographs of the events surrounding the incident to Schilmiller, at his directive, throughout the duration of the event,” the memorandum says. “There is no indication at this time that Hoffman was sexually assaulted.”
Brehmer told detectives she and McIntosh went back to the car, where she said McIntosh told her to use Hoffman’s cellphone to text the victim’s sister and make up a story about dropping Hoffman off at Polar Bear Park in Anchorage, the criminal complaint says. The bail memorandum states that digital evidence backed those claims.
Brehmer deleted her conversations with Schilmiller from her phone, the memorandum says.
The pair then drove to a separate park in the Mountain View community, where they reportedly burned Hoffman’s purse, some of her clothes, her identification and the gun with which she was shot, according to police statements and the criminal complaint.
McIntosh was interviewed next by detectives, according to the complaint. In his version of events, he said he “blacked out” when Hoffman threatened to call police on him and Brehmer, but that he remembered shooting her and pushing her into the river.
“He remembers CeeCee twitching before he pushed her in the water and does not know if she died from the gunshot wound or from drowning,” the complaint states.
Detectives went to the area along the Eklutna River where Brehmer and McIntosh said the crime took place and found Hoffman’s body, which still had duct tape around the ankles.
Investigators initially released Brehmer, who claimed to have no advance knowledge that McIntosh was going to shoot Hoffman, but arrested her on murder and evidence tampering charges three days later, Anchorage police officials said. The bail memorandum indicates Brehmer was brought in for more questioning after authorities discovered a Snapchat video in which she appears to confess to her involvement in the slaying.
She ultimately admitted to being solicited by Schilmiller to commit the crime, court documents say.
Leyland, who authorities said provided the Chevy Trailblazer used by Brehmer and McIntosh on the day of the slaying, and the two other suspects were arrested June 9. Leyland admitted to his role in the incident and, according to the bail memorandum, told authorities he was going to get $500,000 of the $9 million.
KTVA reported that the two suspects charged as juveniles admitted being present when the crime was planned by the group in Anchorage.
Leyland is also charged with sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor for allegedly assaulting the suspect dubbed Jane Doe 06022019, police said. It was not clear when the alleged sexual assault took place.
On June 11, Schilmiller’s name was made public as a “person of interest” in the homicide. He was taken into custody that day as part of what was described as an ongoing federal investigation.
According to federal court records, Schilmiller became part of the homicide investigation in Anchorage after detectives there found evidence of child pornography on Brehmer’s cellphone.
Read one of the criminal complaints in the case below.
The images were embedded in text messages between Brehmer and a contact listed as “Babe,” whom Brehmer identified for detectives as a Kansas man she knew as “Tyler.”
The phone number was traced to a relative of Schilmiller’s in Indiana, an FBI special agent wrote in a criminal complaint. A Facebook Messenger search linked the phone number to Schilmiller.
Brehmer told investigators about sexually assaulting two young girls at Schilmiller’s direction, the complaint says. She said she sent video of the assaults to him.
The complaint goes into explicit detail about the strings of text messages Brehmer and Schilmiller sent to one another during the incidents. In a text exchange that appears to be between Schilmiller and the 15-year-old victim, Schilmiller, as “Tyler,” offers her millions of dollars.
“IDK (I don’t know) if I told Angel, but I also have $50 million. I’m willing to give you $15 mil,” he wrote.
When he resumed texting with Brehmer, he told her to “fully rape” the younger girl.
“Make it look like role play,” he wrote. “You know what I mean. Like a porn movie.”
In another portion of the conversation, “Tyler” tells Brehmer he “doesn’t deserve” her and cannot be in a relationship because of his fetish for rape and child porn.
“I wish I never made a deal with you in the first place,” he wrote. “We can meet, but once I see a cop I’m telling him or her that I made you rape people and killed CeeCee.”
The FBI agent who wrote the criminal complaint said “Tyler” was initially identified as Schilmiller after agents spotted a public Facebook post from 2017 in which he wrote that he had lost his friends’ contact information and gave his cellphone number. It was the number to which Brehmer texted her videos and images.
Further digging into Schilmiller’s background showed he was a person of interest in a 2018 child pornography case.
“In that case, an individual using the phone number (redacted), the same number believed to be used by Schilmiller in this case, contacted a female in California and discussed his fetish with infants, asking the female to send him images of infants along with dirty diapers,” the criminal complaint states. “This case was closed without any charges being brought.”
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