Woman sentenced to 99 years for her role in murder of disabled friend

16 February 2024, 10:14

Denali Brehmer
Woman jailed for 99 years over murder. Picture: PA

Denali Brehmer was tricked by a man posing as a millionaire into organising the killing of Cynthia Hoffman in 2019.

An Alaskan woman has been sentenced to 99 years in prison for orchestrating the death of a disabled woman in a murder-for-hire plot.

Prosecutors said Denali Brehmer was hoping to cash in on a nine million US dollar (£7 million) offer from a man purporting to be a millionaire.

Brehmer, 23, was sentenced by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson earlier this week in the 2019 death of her friend, Cynthia Hoffman, whose death was captured in photos and video near Thunderbird Falls, a popular trail area just north of Anchorage.

Brehmer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in February 2023.

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

Peterson said Hoffman’s pre-mediated murder-for-hire was “tragic and senseless”, and that Brehmer showed no remorse. He said he hoped her sentence would serve as a deterrent to others.

Defence attorneys sought an 80-year sentence with 20 of those years suspended. Alaska does not have the death penalty.

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

Authorities in 2019 said that Schilmiller posed online as “Tyler”, a millionaire from Kansas when starting an online relationship with Brehmer.

About three weeks before Hoffman was killed, Brehmer and Schilmiller discussed a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska, according to court documents.

The millionaire’s only demand for payment was either photos or video of the killing.

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

Leyland will be sentenced in June. McIntosh, whom prosecutors have said was the gunman, will be tried as an adult in the case even though he was 16 when Hoffman was killed. His case is pending trial.

An email seeking comment was sent to McIntosh’s lawyer.

According to court documents, the group took Hoffman to Thunderbird Falls. They went off trail and followed a path to the Eklutna River, where Hoffman was bound with duct tape, shot in the back of the head and thrown into the river.

Officials said Brehmer then texted Hoffman’s family to let them know they dropped her off at an Anchorage park.

Brehmer was eventually arrested, and once she realised she had been catfished or tricked by Schilmiller, she told authorities that she had been solicited by him.

Schilmiller admitted to federal agents and the Indiana State Police that he chose Hoffman as the victim and told Brehmer to kill her, court documents said.

He said Brehmer communicated with him throughout Hoffman’s killing and sent Snapchat photos and videos of Hoffman while bound and after she was killed.

By Press Association

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