In Anchorage teen’s 2019 murder, catfished killer pleads guilty

a young person in a prison jumpsuit
Denali Brehmer, 18, is one of several teenagers charged in the murder of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

An Anchorage woman charged with murder in 2019 after getting caught up in what prosecutors described as a “catfishing” scheme has pleaded guilty.

Denali Brehmer was 18 when she and two fellow teenagers were tricked by an out-of-state man who offered them millions of dollars to sexually assault and kill 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman.

That’s according to charging documents filed in both state and federal court, which say Darin Schilmiller, then a 21-year-old from Indiana, posed online as a millionaire and convinced Brehmer to send him photos and videos of child sexual abuse.

Prosecutors say Schilmiller promised Brehmer and her group $9 million to kill someone in Alaska. The teens allegedly bound Hoffman — who reportedly thought of Brehmer as her best friend — and fatally shot her near Thunderbird Falls north of Anchorage on June 2, 2019.

Brehmer, now 22, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree murder.

Brehmer’s sentencing is set for Aug. 22. Her plea does not come with an agreement on the length of her sentence, and the sentencing range for Hoffman’s murder is 30 to 99 years in prison.

Schilmiller was arrested and extradited to Alaska and, now 24, remains jailed on murder charges in the case. That state case and a federal child pornography case, in which Brehmer is also charged, remain open.

Charges against Brehmer’s two alleged accomplices in the murder — 23-year-old Caleb Leyland and 19-year-old Kayden McIntosh, are also still pending.

Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at

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