Two recent homicide cases in Anchorage have caused many to consider a different side of violent crimes: those committed by young people.

Last week, a 12-year-old was arrested for shooting and killing 18-year-old Thomas Williams near the Chester Creek trail.

Also within the past week, five people, all ages 19 and under, have been accused of taking part in the murder of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman near Thunderbird Falls. A 16-year-old is the alleged triggerman.

Grieving after a sudden loss

When dealing with grief, there are some important points to remember, according to the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health.

First, take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Eat well, get exercise and keep in touch with people who are important to you.

Remember that grief can be uneven. Times of happiness can be abruptly interrupted by waves of sadness; this can be seen in children, too.

Finally, be patient with yourself and others. Everyone grieves differently, at their own pace, and that’s OK.

These are some common feelings for people dealing with a sudden traumatic loss:

  • Shock
    • Feeling numb and having trouble concentrating
  • Depression
    • Feeling intensely sad, not wanting to eat, having trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Anger
    • Feeling angry toward someone else or yourself
  • Guilt
    • Feeling like you could have done something differently

The agency says these feelings are normal and usually fade with time as thoughts and emotions have time to process. It’s important to remember that this gradual transition is not a betrayal of loved ones, but natural and necessary.

There are resources available for people who are coping with grief.

Victims for Justice specifically offers support for family members who have lost a loved one to a violent death or homicide. In Anchorage, call 907-278-0977; outside of Anchorage, call 1-888-835-1213.

Chester Creek homicide - Thomas Williams

About 6:25 p.m. Sunday, June 2, Anchorage police got report of shots fired in the trail area near the Sullivan Arena. Not long after, they received another report from someone saying they’d been shot in the woods.

When police arrived, 18-year-old Thomas Williams was dead. Another victim, a juvenile, was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The preliminary investigation showed that, before shots were fired, a group of young people got into an argument near the sports field of the Sullivan arena. Police say the altercation ended in the woods, where the 12-year-old shot the two victims.

On Wednesday morning, police announced they’d arrested the young suspect and taken him to the McLaughlin Youth Center.

Thunderbird Falls homicide - Cynthia Hoffman

Cynthia Hoffman, 19, was first reported missing to Anchorage police by her family on Monday, June 3. They also said she had a learning disability.

Based on information from one of Hoffman’s friends, her father reported that she’d last been seen at the Polar Bear Playground at Russian Jack Springs Park around 4:40 on Sunday afternoon, but police later learned those details were false and were shared to intentionally misdirect the investigation.

The first person arrested for the crime was 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh, on June 4. Police say he shot Hoffman and put her body in the river while another female was present. That female was later identified as 18-year-old Denali Brehmer, who was arrested on June 7.

According to court documents, McIntosh, Brehmer and Hoffman went to Thunderbird Falls where Hoffman was bound with duct tape. After an altercation took place, McIntosh used Brehmer’s 9 mm to shoot Hoffman in the back of the head.

McIntosh and Brehmer then went to Russian Jack Springs Park where they used Hoffman’s cell phone to text her sister a made-up story about dropping her off somewhere, the documents read. The pair then went to Mountain View where they burned the gun and some of Hoffman’s belongings.

In his statement to police, McIntosh said he “blacked out,” but remembers shooting Hoffman and pushing her body into the river. He said he didn’t want Brehmer to go to jail.

Brehmer had previously said she was afraid of McIntosh and that’s why she went along with him. After she was arrested, however, Brehmer admitted to detectives that she told McIntosh to shoot Hoffman because she couldn’t do it.

Three more suspects were arrested over the weekend. Police say 19-year-old Caleb Leyland gave McIntosh and Brehmer his Chevrolet Trailblazer to kidnap Hoffman and kill her. A male and female juvenile were also charged. According to court records, the male admitted his involvement and agreed to kidnap and murder Hoffman. The female said she was present when the crimes were planned.

McIntosh, Brehmer and Leyland all face charges of first-degree murder.

McIntosh and Brehmer are also charged with evidence tampering. Leyland is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The juveniles were taken to the McLaughlin Youth Center and their cases are being handled by the Division of Juvenile Justice.

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