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Phony Millionaire Allegedly Convinced Teens To Kill Their Developmentally Challenged Friend With Promise Of Rich Pay Day

Cynthia Hoffman thought she was going for a hike with her friend, Denali Brehmer, but ended up dead. Investigators say Indiana man Darin Schilmiller was pulling the strings.

By Gina Tron
Cynthia Hoffman

Five Alaska teens are accused of murdering friend with developmental challenges, all at the direction of a phony millionaire who promised them a mountain of cash to carry out the act and send him pictures, according to police.

Investigators believe Darin Schilmiller, 21, of New Salisbury, Indiana, posed as a millionaire named “Tyler” online and offered 18-year-old Denali Brehmer $9 million or more to “rape and murder someone in Alaska,” the Anchorage Daily News reported, citing court documents. Brehmer is accused of then recruiting four of her friends to kill the targeted teen: 19-year-old Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman. She was found dead June 2 in the Eklutna River in Anchorage, bound with duct tape. She had been shot in the back of the head.

Brehmer was supposed to send photos and videos of the killing back to Schilmiller, according to the court documents.

Brehmer has been charged with first-degree murder for Hoffman’s death. Her friends Kayden McIntosh, 16; Caleb Leyland, 19 and two other teens whose names haven’t been released because of their ages are accused of conspiring with her, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The teens told police each of them was supposed to receive a share of Schilmiller’s promised reward for their role in the killing.

Cynthia Hoffman

Tragically, Hoffman thought that Brehmer was her best friend.

“My bff,” she said in a caption of a photo taken at a school dance, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Hoffman’s family told the Daily News that she was vulnerable and that, because of a developmental disability, she was intellectually about 12.

“Her disability just made her want to have friends,” her dad Timothy Hoffman, said. “That’s all she wanted, was just to be her friend.”

Brehmer was allegedly catfished into a romantic relationship by Schilmiller, who posed as someone younger, the Daily Beast reports

“He does not look like the young man he portrayed himself to look like, he is not a millionaire, and he lives in Indiana,” a bail memorandum obtained by the Daily Beast states.

A motive is unclear but the murder does appear to have links to child porn allegations against Schilmiller, who is also is accused of directing Brehmer to record the sexual exploitation of other girls.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors announced the arrest of Schilmiller on child pornography charges. He is charged with production of visual depiction of minors in sexually explicit conduct and attempted receipt of those depictions.

In a criminal complaint, FBI Agent Jessica Hais said Brehmer told police that she and McIntosh accompanied Hoffman to the popular trail and planned to take photos of each other tied up.

At some point, police said, McIntosh took a gun from Brehmer, shot Hoffman and pushed her into the river.

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.

McIntosh is charged as an adult with first-degree murder and evidence tampering. During a search of Brehmer’s phone, police reported finding sexually explicit photos and text messages to Schilmiller discussing them.

Brehmer allegedly 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.

Chloe Martin, spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Anchorage, has said that Schilmiller will be extradited to Alaska.

All the defendants face murder charges, conspiracy to commit murder charges but Schilmiller and Brehmer also face a charge for solicitation to commit murder. Brehmer and McIntosh were indicted for tampering with evidence.

Brehmer is represented by the Alaska public defender’s office. It has a policy of not commenting on pending cases. Online court records do not list an attorney for Schilmiller. On Friday, all six defendants were indicted. Everyone but Schilmiller will be arraigned on Tuesday.

Hoffman “worked in restaurants but truly enjoyed being her dad's right-hand man in his handyman business,” according to her obituary. “Cynthia had such a kind heart and was a friend to many people. She is truly going to be missed.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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