Alaska woman jailed for 99 years for $9m catfish murder of best friend

Brehmer was handed the maximum sentence for her role in the killing

Martha McHardy
Wednesday 21 February 2024 10:07 GMT
Woman who killed 'best friend' after $9M catfish offer sentenced to 99 years

An Alaska woman who murdered her friend in the hope of a $9 million payoff has been jailed for 99 years.

Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, one of two young people charged in the 2019 killing of Alaska teenager Cynthia Hoffman in a murder-for-hire scheme, was jailed on Monday after pleading guilty in February 2023 to first-degree murder.

Court documents showed that Brehmer was 18 when she and two other teens were catfished online by 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller, who pretended to be a millionaire named “Tyler” and offered the teens $9m for the “rape and murder of someone in Alaska”.

He also asked the teens to send him photos and videos of the killing, according to court documents.

Brehmer agreed to the offer, and enlisted the help of four friends, Caleb Leyland and Kayden McIntosh, along with two unnamed juveniles.

Authorities accused Brehmer and her alleged accomplices of luring Hoffman to Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, an unincorporated community in Anchorage, under the guise of a friendly hike.

During the hike, Hoffman – who thought of Brehmer as her “best friend” – was duct-taped and shot in the back of the head and put into a river, officials said.

Authorities added that the group had tried to burn Hoffman’s body before sending her family a text that she had been dropped off elsewhere.

Police found Hoffman’s body one day after she was reported missing.

Kayden McIntosh, who was 16 at the time, was charged with murder for allegedly shooting Hoffman in the head. His case is pending trial.

Meanwhile, Brehmer was handed the maximum sentence for her role in the killing, according to the Alaska Department of Law.

“She may not have pulled the trigger, but this never would have happened it if it weren’t for Denali Brehmer,” said Patrick McKay, Anchorage assistant district attorney, during sentencing.

“She executed Cynthia Hoffman in a murder-for-hire plot. She conspired with numerous other individuals in and outside of Alaska, including juveniles, forever altering everybody’s life,” he added.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson called the killing “tragic and senseless”, adding that Brehmer showed no remorse. He said he hoped her sentence would serve as a deterrent to others.

Darin Schilmiller of New Salisbury, Indiana, was also sentenced last month to 99 years in prison for his role in Hoffman’s murder after being extradited to Alaska.

Caleb Leyland pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November. He is scheduled for sentencing on 10 June.

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