ANCHORAGE, Alaska - An 18-year-old woman is facing murder charges in the death of her best friend after authorities said an Indiana man "catfished" the teen online, offering her millions to take her friend's life.
Darin Schilmiller, 21, of New Salisbury, Indiana allegedly “catfished” Denali Brehmer, 18, of Anchorage, Alaska, and convinced her that he was a millionaire and would give her millions to murder her best friend Cynthia Hoffman, 19, according to Alaska court documents.
“Catfishing” is the practice of assuming a fake identity to engage in online relationships, the document said.
The two suspects' relationship began when Brehmer, who went by the name of “Angel,” met Schilmiller online. He went by the alias of “Tyler” from Kansas and sent her a photo of another young male purporting to be him. Schilmiller also “is not a millionaire,” the documents said.
“Several weeks before Hoffman’s murder, the two began discussing a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska,” the documents said. “Schilmiller offered Brehmer nine or more million dollars to carry out the murder and to have photographs and/or videos of the murder sent to him.”
Brehmer agreed, then solicited four friends, including Kayden McIntosh, 16, Cayleb Leyland, 19, and two other juveniles to assist her in planning and carrying out the murder “at Schilmiller's direction.”
Hoffman was allegedly “best friends” with Brehmen, but was selected by the group as the murder victim, according to the court documents.
Statements and cell phone evidence indicate that at some point during May 2019 or early June 2019, “the group assembled and discussed a plan to carry out the murder,” the documents said.
The defendants stated that they agreed that each member of the group would receive “substantial shares of money” for their part of the planning and execution of the murder, according to the documents.
On June 2, Brehmer drove McIntosh and Hoffman to Thunderbird Falls under the guise of going on a hike, the documents said, citing multiple statements and other corroborating physical evidence. The three of them went off of the trail and followed a path along the bank of the Eklutna River.
“The group stopped at a clearing and Hoffman's hands and feet were bound with duct tape,” the documents said. “Duct tape was also wrapped around her head, covering her mouth.”
Then McIntosh, with Brehmer's gun, shot Hoffman one time in the back of the head, according to the documents. Hoffman's body was then put into the Eklutna River.
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 event, the documents said. At this time, there is no indication that Hoffman was sexually assaulted.
Brehmer and McIntosh then drove to a park, called Hoffman’s family and said they were dropping her off at the park, police said. They went to another park and burned Hoffman’s purse and other items and the gun used in the shooting, police said.
The court document also said McIntosh and Brehmer destroyed some of Hoffman's clothing, her cell phone and her purse.
On June 4, McIntosh was arrested for first degree murder after confessing to the Anchorage Police Department to shooting Hoffman in the head.
All six suspects were charged with murder in the first degree, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree and two counts in the second degree relating to Hoffman's death, according to a release from the State of Alaska Department of Law.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 99 years of prison for the murder charges, according to a release from the Anchorage Police Department.
Child pornography was found on Brehmer's cell phone, which led to Schilmiller's arrest. He is currently in the custody of the FBI.
Brehmer, McIntosh and Leyland are in the custody of the Alaska Department of Corrections and were arraigned Tuesday.
Brehmer was further indicted on a count of tampering with physical evidence, and McIntosh was indicted on four counts of tampering with physical evidence, according to a the police release.
Schilmiller has also been charged with production of visual depiction of minors in sexually explicit conduct and attempted receipt of those depictions. He directed the recording of girls by Brehmer, FBI Agent Jessica Hais said in a criminal complaint.
During a search of Brehmer’s phone, police reported finding sexually explicit photos and text messages to Schilmiller discussing them.
Brehmer told police she shot video of a girl who was 8 or 9 and another who is 15 and sent them to Schilmiller. In interviews, she referred to him as “Tyler” from Kansas.
Hais, who is part of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, said in the criminal complaint that investigators determined “Tyler” was Schilmiller. Text messages on Brehmer’s phone show Schilmiller directing Brehmer on how she should assault the older girl, authorities said.
Online court records do not list Schilmiller's attorney who could comment on the case.
Brehmer is represented by the Alaska Public Defender's Office. It has a policy of not commenting on pending cases.
On June 7, Brehmer admitted to police to being solicited by Schilmiller to commit the murder and “that the murder was planned once she realized she had been catfished by Schilmiller,” the documents said.
On June 9, Schilmiller was contacted by federal agents and Indiana state police, when he admitted to being “Tyler” and catfishing “Angel,” according to the documents. He told police that he knew Hoffman was best friends with Brehmer. He also admitted to telling Brehmer to kill Hoffman and that he and Brehmer were planning a murder for three weeks.
Schilmiller also stated that he chose Hoffman as the victim.
“He informed investigators that Brehmer had been communicating with him throughout the murder and was sending him Snapchat photos and videos of Hoffman tied up and of the body afterward,” the documents said.
In addition, Schilmiller admitted he and Brehmer discussed murdering another person after Hoffman, “but that the plan was ultimately abandoned,” the documents said. He also admitted to “attempting to blackmail Brehmer after the homicide into raping people.”
“Further, his actions and demands made after the homicide indicate he is an ongoing danger to the community,” the documents said.
Chloe Martin, spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Anchorage, said that Schilmiller will be extradited to Alaska.
Hoffman's funeral was last week. She is survived by her parents, sisters and brothers.
“She had worked in restaurants but truly enjoyed being her dad’s right-hand man in his handyman business. Cynthia had such a kind heart and was a friend to many people. She is truly going to be missed,” the Cremation Society of Alaska wrote for her obituary.
Timothy Hoffman, Hoffman’s father, told Alaska's KTVA-TV that his daughter had a learning disability, adding that she was an “angel” and a “daddy's girl.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.