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Crime News Murders

Catfished Killer Who Murdered ‘Best Friend’ Over Fake Promise Of $9M Pleads Guilty

“All I want is me and my daughter to have peace, and to have peace this has to be done,” Timothy Hoffman, the father of Cynthia “Cee Cee” Hoffman, said.

By Dorian Geiger
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

An Alaska woman who was catfished by a man she met online into carrying out the murder of a high school friend with a learning disability nearly four years ago, has taken a plea deal.

Denali Brehmer, 22, pleaded guilty to the 2019 killing of her “best friend,” 19-year-old Cynthia “Cee Cee” Hoffman, the Alaska Department of Law announced on Feb. 15. A number of other young adults were also charged in Hoffman’s death. 

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On June 2, 2019, Brehmer lured Hoffman into an area near Chugiak, Alaska’s Thunderbird Falls under the false pretense that they were going for a hike. Instead, Hoffman, who lived with learning disabilities, was bound with duct tape, shot in the back of the head and tossed into the Eklutna River, according to case court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.

Brehmer told investigators she acted at the behest of a 21-year-old Indiana man, Darin Schilmiller, whom she’d met online. Schilmiller, who falsely posed as a Kansas millionaire named “Tyler,” allegedly offered Brehmer a $9 million payday to "rape and murder someone in Alaska," per a case bail memo. She later sent Schilmiller photos and videos of Hoffman’s murder as proof the young woman’s killing had been completed.

Cynthia Hoffman

Brehmer later confessed to the killing in a Snapchat video and admitted in subsequent police interviews that she’d been solicited to carry out the murder at Schilmiller’s behest. Prosecutors also seized a trove of damning messages and other digital evidence Brehmer sent Schilmiller during and in the immediate aftermath of the teen's grisly murder.

Brehmer, prosecutors say, had planned Hoffman’s murder for a number of weeks, allegedly enlisting the help of four others to carry out the killing, including 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh, who Brehmer said was the one who fatally shot Hoffman. The group later settled on Hoffman, who prosecutors said was “best friends” with Brehmer.

"The only thing I know is that my daughter trusted these people, my daughter just wanted friends," Timothy Hoffman told CBS News in June 2019. "Now I have to bury her, and that is wrong," he added. 

Hoffman’s family since welcomed the plea deal during an emotional court statement.

“It was a sign of relief in that this is almost over,” Hoffman also told the case’s presiding judge last week after the court accepted Brehmer’s guilty plea, according to Anchorage television station KTUU. “All I want is me and my daughter to have peace, and to have peace this has to be done. But my job is to make sure that all [involved] do time for what they’ve done.”

Brehmer’s sentencing is scheduled to get underway on Aug. 22. She now faces between 30 and 99 years behind bars. Prosecutors noted that the terms of Brehmer’s recent plea agreement don’t stipulate a specific term of imprisonment.

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