When Anchorage Police found the body of Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman by the Eklutna River on June 4, they knew she had obviously been murdered, but didn’t have a clue how horrifying the crime would actually turn out to be.
The 19-year-old was discovered with her hands and mouth bound in duct tape and a gunshot wound in the back of her head. Hoffman had last been seen when she went hiking along the river with a group of her friends, and had been missing for two days.
The first big break in the case came when police searched through the phone of Hoffman’s “best friend,” 18-year-old Denali Brehmer. They were shocked to find pornographic images of children.
By the time they were through analyzing the phone, all the horrifying details to explain Hoffman’s murder were laid out like a road-map.
As alleged by Alaska court documents, Brehmer had been exchanging messages with a man she believed to be a millionaire, who in reality was a 21-year-old loser living in Indiana.
Darin M. Schilmiller “catfished” her by using the name “Tyler” and showing a bogus photo. When Schilmiller offered Brehmer 9 million dollars that he didn’t have, it set the plot in motion.
— Cyndi Jones 👻👽 (@zombiecyndi) June 18, 2019
As laid out in court filings, over the course of several weeks, the pair exchanged “I love you” messages as they calmly discussed “raping and killing someone.” The money was offered in exchange for having “photographs and/or videos of the murder sent to him.”
Schilmiller had a local reputation as a pedophile. According to former classmate Jaden Pohle:
“I don’t think that anybody thought he would ever kill anybody but the child pornography–he definitely had a problem there.”
She recalled how “Schilmiller used to relentlessly ask her for bikini photos.”
Local resident Shiann Arnold, told a local news station she “had first-hand experience” with his “disturbing requests” for images of her children.
While using a fake name to exchange chat messages, Schilmiller texted, “I have a problem I want to tell someone and I don’t know how.” Before he would tell though, he “wanted her to send diaper change photos of her daughters.”
Alaskan detectives found similar messages on both his phone and Brehmer’s. Tyler told Brehmer all about “a child porn fetish and rape fantasies.”
After discussing the ins and outs of the proposed rape and/or murder, they settled on a victim. It looks like Hoffman was chosen because of her “developmental disability.”
By offering huge sums of money to her friends, Brehmer recruited four others to help her execute Hoffman. She offered 19-year-old Caleb Leyland $500,000 just to use his truck.
16-year-old Kayden McIntosh would eventually pull the trigger and he is being tried as an adult. Two underage defendants, one boy and one girl have also been indicted for their undisclosed role in the murder.
On June 2, Brehmer and McIntosh used Leyland’s truck to drive Hoffman to Thunderbird Falls trail. After leaving the main trail to follow a side path along the river, they reached a clearing.
There, the two “bound Hoffman’s hands and feet with duct tape. They also wrapped duct tape around her head to cover her mouth.” McIntosh proceeded to shoot Hoffman in the back of her head using a 9mm pistol.
After dumping the girls body in the river, “they tried to burn her purse and belongings before sending a text message to Hoffman’s family saying she had been dropped off” at a park in Anchorage. Hoffman had not been sexually assaulted.
Both Brehmer’s and Schilmiller’s phones had “explicit photos and images of the killing.”
As stated by investigators:
“Digital evidence and statements show Brehmer was communicating with and sending videos and/or photographs of the events surrounding the incident to Schilmiller at his directive throughout the duration of the event.”
After the murder, Schilmiller started blackmailing Brehmer. For an encore she agreed to “sexually assault two girls, one of whom is 15 and the other is 8 or 9.”
The “multiple videos” she took of both girls were the images originally found by police looking into Hoffman’s murder.
Schilmiller has been extradited to Alaska and faces first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges along with Brehmer, McIntosh, Leyland, and the two unnamed minors.
Schilmiller and Brehmer were both charged with solicitation to commit murder, while Brehmer and McIntosh were charged for tampering with physical evidence.
All of the defendants are looking at up to 99 years in prison for the murder and solicitation charges.