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An Alaska woman who killed her “best friend” after she was catfished — when a person creates a fake online identity to have a relationship with and/or scam another — by a man who offered her $9 million to commit a murder was sentenced Monday to 99 years in prison.

Denali Brehmer, 24, previously pleaded guilty to murder in 2023 for the death of Cynthia Hoffman, the Alaska Department of Law said. 

“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. She may not have pulled the trigger, but this never would have happened if it weren’t for Denali Brehmer,” prosecutor Patrick McKay Jr. said. 


Denali Brehmer sits in an Alaska courtroom next to her defense attorney, Emily Cooper. Brehmer was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the 2019 killing of Cynthia Hoffman. (Alaska Department of Law)

Hoffman’s body was found on the Eklutna River in Chugiak on June 2, 2019. She was shot and killed and later found bound with duct tape. Brehmer carried out the killing after meeting a man online who went by the name of “Tyler,” authorities said. 

The man, however, lied to Brehmer, pretending to be a millionaire from Kansas and offered Brehmer $9 million to record the killing of a person in Alaska, but he was actually a then-21-year-old Indiana man named Darin Schilmiller.

Brehmer allegedly recruited four friends, including Kayden McIntosh, Caleb Leyland and two juveniles, to help her carry out Hoffman’s murder. They lured Hoffman into thinking she was meeting up for a hiking trip at ​​Thunderbird Falls trail when she was killed. 

Denali Brehmer

Denali Brehmer (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Brehmer sent photos and video footage of the killing to Schilmiller, authorities said. In January, Schilmiller was sentenced to 99 years in prison for his role in the killing. He also solicited child pornography from Brehmer, prosecutors said. 


A judge said Brehmer’s conduct was “cold, calculated, and carried out to a ‘T’.”While Brehmer was a minor at the time of the murder, the judge said she clearly knew what she was doing and that the killing was not some “youthful indiscretion.”

McIntosh’s case is still pending. Leyland’s is expected to be sentenced on June 10 after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. The other two suspects were prosecuted in juvenile court for their alleged involvement in the case, the Anchorage Daily News reported. 

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