Alaska Teen Killed 'Best Friend' After Man Online Allegedly Offered $9M for Videos of Murder in Catfish Scheme

Denali Brehmer, 22, will be sentenced in August and faces 30 to 99 years in prison

Cynthia Hoffman, Denali Brehmer
Cynthia Hoffman, Denali Brehmer. Photo: Family Photo; Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP

A 22-year-old Alaska woman pleaded guilty to murdering her 19-year-old "best friend" in 2019 after a man who was allegedly catfishing her offered her $9 million to kill someone.

On Wednesday, Denali Brehmer of Anchorage pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, according to a statement from the Alaska Department of Law.

Brehmer agreed to plead guilty to murdering Cynthia Hoffman, 19, a teen with developmental disabilities, in exchange for having five other charges against her dropped, KTUU reports.

"She was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, solicitation to commit murder in the first degree, two different theories of murder in the second degree, and tampering with evidence," State Prosecutor Patrick McKay said, KTUU reports.

The charges stemmed from June 2019, when Hoffman went missing during a hike with Brehmer and another friend at Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, Alaska.

Her body was found two days later on the banks of the Eklutna River, bound with duct tape and shot in the back of the head.

During their investigation, authorities learned that Brehmer had started an online relationship with a man who said his name was "Tyler" and who claimed he was a millionaire from Kansas, charging documents show.

He allegedly offered her $9 million to kill someone and send him pictures and video of the slaying, charging documents show.

According to the charging documents, Brehmer, then 18, and Kayden McIntosh, then 16, drove Hoffman to Thunderbird Falls.

They allegedly duct taped Hoffman and took pictures of her before McIntosh shot her in the back of the head, police said.

McIntosh and Brehmer were each charged with one count of murder and one count of tampering with evidence, according to online court records.

Two juveniles — a male and female whose names were withheld because they are minors — "were involved in the planning of this homicide with Brehmer and McIntosh," according to the police report.

Caleb Leyland, then 19, was also arrested for one count of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and multiple counts of sexual assault with a minor.

Leyland allegedly told police he helped plot Hoffman's slaying and lent his SUV to Brehmer in order to commit the crime, according to charging documents obtained by local newspaper The Alaska Star.

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McIntosh and Leyland's cases are still pending.

In 2019, Darin Schilmiller of Indiana was charged with allegedly coming up with the plan to kill Hoffman, court records show.

An Anchorage grand jury indicted then-21-year-old Schilmiller on charges of murder in the first degree, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree and two counts of murder in the second degree, according to a statement from the Alaska Department of Law.

In Aug. 2019, he pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Now 24, Schilmiller was extradited to Alaska, where he remains jailed and is awaiting trial, Alaska Public Media reports.

Brehmer will be sentenced on Aug. 22.

Her plea agreement did not include a specific term of imprisonment, according to Alaska Department of Law.

She faces a sentence of 30 to 99 years in prison, the statement says.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the victim's family has said she has a learning disability and functions at a younger developmental age than 19. Hoffman's father, Timothy Hoffman, said his daughter considered Brehmer her "best friend" after they met in high school, The Anchorage Daily News reports.

"The only thing I know is that my daughter trusted these people," Timothy said in court in 2019, local TV station KTVA reported.

"My daughter just wanted friends, and now I have to bury her. And that is wrong."

Attorneys for Brehmer, Leyland, McIntosh and Schilmiller did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

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