true crime

A catfish promised 18-year-old Denali $13 million to kill her best friend. She did it.


Content Warning: This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering to some readers.

When 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman failed to return home earlier this month, her parents knew something wasn’t right.

Affectionately known by her friends and family as CeeCee, alarm bells were set off when the Hoffman family’s third oldest daughter failed to meet up with her sister at a local shopping centre.

“When she didn’t come home the first day, I knew something was wrong,” Cynthia’s father told KTUU. “And then all I could think about was the knock on the door.”

“I put out search parties,” he added. “I drove my motorcycle through woods and bike paths. I floored it all over town doing speed limits I should not have been doing looking for my kid.”

Each week on True Crime Conversations, host Jessie Stephens will sit down to talk to an expert about crimes that have captivated, confused and kept us guessing. Post continues after video.

A few nights later, that fateful knock came around dinner time.


“I just looked at them and said, ‘She’s dead. Isn’t she?’ And they said ‘Yes,'” Hoffman told KTUU.

Cynthia had been lured to Thunderbird Falls Trail in Anchorage, Alaska. She believed she was going on a hike with her group of friends.

At one point on the trail, however, the group stopped and bound Cynthia’s hands, mouth and feet with duct tape.

When police found her body on the banks of the Eklutna River, two days after she was reported missing, they discovered she had been shot in the back of the head.

Denali Brehmer, Cynthia’s best friend, was the one who had orchestrated the murder.


The 18-year-old recruited four friends to help her carry out the act, after a man she developed a relationship with online offered her AUD$13 million or more to “rape and murder someone in Alaska” and film it.

She reportedly offered her friends, including 19-year-old Caleb Leyland, 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh and an unnamed juvenile male and a juvenile female, a cut of the money in exchange for orchestrating the murder.

For months on end, Brehmer believed she was talking to a millionaire from Kansa named ‘Tyler’, who helped her orchestrate the murder in exchange for money.

In reality, she was catfished.

The man who really had been speaking to her was 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller from New Salisbury, Indiana. He looked nothing like the photos he had sent her and he wasn’t a millionaire.

After being questioned by police, Cynthia’s supposed best friend, Brehmer, confessed to shooting Cynthia in the head. She was charged with conspiracy and murder in the first degree, two counts of second-degree murder and five counts of tampering with evidence.


Several days later, Schilmiller also confessed to his involvement, confessing that Brehmer had sent him Snapchat photos and videos during the killing.

Schilmiller had also allegedly directed Brehmer to sexually assault two minors, one of which was just eight or nine years old.

“All I know is that my daughter didn’t deserve all this. She should have had the friends that she wanted. She shouldn’t have had people that wanted to plot against her,” Cynthia’s father said.

“And the ages of these people? I think it is sick. And now they don’t have to live the nightmare that I have to live.”