An Indiana man is now charged with murder in the death of Anchorage resident Cynthia Hoffman in early June.
Prosecutors say he allegedly tricked a group of teenagers into murdering Hoffman by promising them millions of dollars in exchange for images of the killing.
According to a bail memorandum filed Friday, 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller posed as a millionaire named “Tyler” online, using another person’s photo in a scheme known as “catfishing.” The bail memo says Schilmiller offered 18-year-old Denali Brehmer $9 million or more to “rape and murder someone in Alaska.”
Brehmer is charged with first-degree murder in Hoffman’s death, along with 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh, whom police say pulled the trigger, and 19-year-old Caleb Leyland, who allegedly provided a car. A recent indictment adds Schilmiller and two unnamed juvenile defendants.
Leyland is charged separately with sexually abusing a minor. Schilmiller also faces related child pornography charges in federal court. Prosecutors wrote in the charges for that case that Schillmiller had directed Brehmer to take sexually explicit photos of two minor victims and told her to record videos of child sexual abuse to send to him.
Hoffman was killed June 2. Police found her bound with duct tape, shot in the back of the head, in the Eklutna River near Thunderbird Falls. Prosecutors say there was no evidence she was sexually assaulted.
Police followed a tip to Brehmer and McIntosh, who was the first arrested. The charging document says detectives searched Brehmer’s phone and discovered child pornography and the connection to Schilmiller in Indiana.
“Once Brehmer realized she had been cat-fished by Schilmiller, she ultimately admitted to being solicited by Schilmiller to commit the murder and that the murder was planned,” prosecutors wrote in the recent bail memorandum.
Brehmer and Leyland were due in court Tuesday. Federal, state and city authorities said they would make an announcement about the case Tuesday afternoon.
- The Alaska State Council on the Arts closed its doors Monday, making Alaska the only state without an arts council. Gov. Mike Dunleavy used a line-item budget veto to eliminate the council's funding of $2.8 million. Alaska lawmakers fell short last week in attempts to override the vetoes.
- The University of Alaska system is known as a leader in climate change research, studying melting permafrost to shrinking glaciers. But there’s growing uncertainty about the future of such projects with steep cuts to state funding.
- The civil rights group claims that the move by the governor infringes on the separation of powers laid out in Alaska's constitution. Dunleavy said he vetoed the court system funding because the state Supreme Court has ruled that Medicaid funds can be used to pay for abortions.
- Sarah James’ desire to preserve the Neetsa’ii Gwich’in way of life drove her into the thick of the battle over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.