Interactive timeline: The murder of Cynthia Hoffman
A story still unfolding. What started as a missing person case turned into a murder investigation involving young people, misdirection and crimes recorded and sent to a fake millionaire out of state.
The following is a timeline of the investigation into the murder of Cynthia Hoffman.
Cynthia Hoffman goes missing
Cynthia Hoffman, 19, was reported missing to the Anchorage Police Department on Monday, June 3. Her father told them she was last seen by a friend at the Polar Bear Playground at Russian Jack Springs Park in east Anchorage Sunday afternoon, based off of information from friends. She was said to be wearing blue jeans, a hoodie and tennis shoes.
The search begins
Anchorage police began the search for Hoffman near Polar Bear Playground, based on the lead from her father on Monday.
Later that day, officers contacted the mother of 18-year-old Denali Brehmer, one of the friends Hoffman was believed to have been with at the park. Brehmer’s mother told police that her daughter said Hoffman may have been shot and pushed into the water, but didn’t have a location or any other details.
Police discover they’ve been misled
On Tuesday, June 4, detectives questioned Brehmer. Police also questioned 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh, another one of Hoffman’s friends believed to be with her at the park, that same day.
During questioning, detectives learned that Hoffman and her friends were never at Polar Bear Playground and that story was fabricated to mislead Hoffman’s family and police.
Hoffman’s body is found, a teenager is arrested
Police found Hoffman’s body on Tuesday, June 4, after McIntosh and Brehmer pointed them in the direction of Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, about 25 miles away from the east Anchorage park. The next day, APD released information about their preliminary investigation into Hoffman's death:
“The preliminary investigation found that [Hoffman], [Brehmer] and [McIntosh] went to Thunderbird Falls trail on 6/2/19. The three walked down to the river bank where the victim was bound with duct tape by the female and male. At some point, an altercation took place. The male shot the victim in the back of the head, pushed her into the river and fled with the female. They drove to Polar Bear Park with the victim’s belongings. They sent texts to the victim’s family members via her phone. They stated the victim was dropped off at the park. The family members took that information and used it to file a missing person’s report the next day. The male and female then drove to Lions Park in Mountain View and burned the victim’s belongings.”
Mountain View is just a couple miles from Russian Jack Spring Park, where police originally looked for Hoffman.
McIntosh was arrested on multiple charges, including first-degree murder and evidence tampering. Brehmer was let go, but the investigation continued.
Charging documents: McIntosh ‘blacked out’
Charging documents for McIntosh obtained by KTVA on Wednesday, June 5, reveal more details on the events surrounding Hoffman’s murder, including what Brehmer and McIntosh told detectives when they were first questioned.
According to the documents, Brehmer told detectives that she, McIntosh and Hoffman were smoking weed in the Valley (about 45 miles north of Anchorage) on Sunday when they started driving toward town, eventually stopping in Chugiak at a parking lot near Thunderbird Falls.
Brehmer told detectives the three of them walked into the woods, agreed to duct tape each other and take photographs. Hoffman, referred to as "CeeCee" in the documents, was bound by her ankles and wrists; duct tape was placed over her mouth.
"CeeCee started to panic," the documents state. "They removed the duct tape from CeeCee's mouth and hands. CeeCee began to tell them she was going to call the police and tell them that they had kidnapped her and sexually assaulted her."
Brehmer told police she had her Keltec 9 mm in her hand. The documents state that McIntosh took the gun from her and shot Hoffman in the back of the head.
"CeeCee was still on the ground and [Brehmer] believes she was trying to call police," the documents state. "[Brehmer] saw CeeCee twitching before McIntosh pushed her in the creek."
When they got back to the car, Brehmer told detectives that McIntosh told her to text Hoffman's sister and make up a story about dropping her off somewhere. She said she complied out of fear.
The pair then traveled to Anchorage, where court documents state McIntosh burned Hoffman's purse, some of her clothing, her ID and the gun he used to shoot her.
McIntosh corroborated Brehmer’s story, telling detectives everyone agreed to duct tape Hoffman and take photographs.
"He recalls CeeCee started panicking and threatening to call the police on them," the documents state. "He stated he 'blacked out', but that he remembers shooting CeeCee and pushing her into the river. He remembers CeeCee twitching before he pushed her in the water and does not know if she died from the gunshot wound or from drowning."
McIntosh told detectives he didn't want Brehmer to go to jail.
Charging documents: Brehmer tells McIntosh to pull the trigger
On Friday, June 7, APD sent out a release saying Brehmer had been arrested in Hoffman’s murder case.
According to charging documents, Brehmer admitted to detectives the trip to Thunderbird Falls was planned and she directed McIntosh to shoot Hoffman.
"Brehmer told [a detective] that after [Hoffman] was tied up, she handed [McIntosh] the gun and told him to shoot her because she couldn't do it, and he shot her," the documents read.
McIntosh told a different story. The detective on the case said that on Wednesday, June 5, a sergeant at the Anchorage Correctional Complex reported that McIntosh was telling people that the shooting was Brehmer's idea.
Brehmer’s Snapchat videos: “I didn’t mean to do it”
On Thursday, June 6, a detective in the case interviewed a friend of Brehmer who presented two Snapchat videos that were posted by Brehmer, charging documents said.
In one video, the detective said, Brehmer gave her account of the incident and it was consistent with what she had told him previously, according to the charging documents.
The detective said that in the second video, McIntosh can be seen walking behind her.
“I guess you will hear from me when you hear from me, but I won’t be back for a long time,” Brehmer said in the video, “I won’t be back for a long time. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do it, I didn’t mean to do it.”
Three more suspects are arrested
On Sunday, June 9, APD announced that 19-year-old Caleb Leyland and two others, identified as a juvenile male and juvenile female, were arrested after police learned they were involved in planning Hoffman's murder.
According to court documents, Anchorage police took Leyland and the juveniles in for questioning after finding them at the juvenile female’s home the day before.
During questioning, Leyland and the juvenile male admitted their involvement and agreed they, along with McIntosh and Brehmer, planned to kidnap and murder Hoffman.
Leyland admitted to giving Brehmer and McIntosh his Chevrolet Trailblazer to kidnap Hoffman and kill her. He was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The juvenile female said she was present at the time the crimes were planned, the documents revealed. During the investigation, APD detectives found Leyland sexually assaulted the juvenile female, which led to additional charges of first-degree sexual assault and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
Brehmer told detectives she was friends with both juvenile suspects and Leyland. According to the documents, an investigation showed Brehmer and McIntosh made contact with all three before Hoffman’s murder.
The juveniles were taken to the McLaughlin Youth Center and their charges were given to the Division of Juvenile Justice.
A new person of interest, child porn charges and texts to a murder suspect
Just over a week after Hoffman’s murder, Anchorage police announced a new person of interest in the case — a 21-year-old man from Indiana, accused of producing and attempting to receive child pornography in a federal criminal complaint that also named Hoffman murder suspect Denali Brehmer.
The pornography was discovered while APD was looking for evidence related to Hoffman's murder on Brehmer’s phone. Text messages between Brehmer and the man discussed plans to sexually assault a minor and contained videos of Brehmer performing the act.
The messages were sent June 2–4 between Brehmer and a contact she had listed as “Babe.” During an interview with police on June 7, Brehmer identified “Babe” as “Tyler,” who she said lived in Kansas. The FBI linked the phone number of “Tyler” to a Facebook account associated with Darin Schilmiller. The phone number, along with driver license records obtained later, led to an address in Indiana.
In an interview, Brehmer said Schilmiller directed her to assault two minors, one who was 8 or 9 years old and another who was 15. It was the 15 year old who was seen and referenced in the text messages found by police.
Below is an excerpt of some of the messages mentioned in the criminal complaint:
c. Tyler: So are you going to [do] the [victim]?
d. Brehmer: Hehehe. Yeah I’m going to her [right now]….Ok found a place to do it at…Gonna go buy weed first. I wanna get her high for it so she doesn’t fight me…I love you”
n. Tyler: Force her tie her up if you have too
o. Brehmer: Okay
p. Tyler: Do the video
q. Brehmer: Ok
Investigators said Brehmer sent a video to Schilmiller showing her assaulting the victim. Schilmiller then asks for more pictures. At this point, police say it appears the victim takes possession of Brehmer’s phone and begins communicating with Schilmiller, sending him a graphic video.
In another message from Schilmiller to Brehmer, he seems to reference Hoffman’s murder, saying:
“I wish I never made a deal with you in the first place…we can meet but once I see a cop I’m telling him or her that I made you rape people and killed cece. I don’t even deserve you…..”
An Indiana mastermind and his fake millions
On Friday, June 14, the Alaska Department of Law announced six indictments in Hoffman's murder case. New court documents revealed the latest break — the man behind the murder plot.
Schilmiller allegedly recruited Brehmer, offering to pay her $9 million or more to murder Hoffman and send him videos and / or photographs of the act. Brehmer then recruited McIntosh, Leyland and two juveniles to help her plan and execute the murder. In exchange, they would all receive "a significant sum of money for their part."
A grand jury indicted all six suspects for first-degree murder, first-degree conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of second-degree murder. Schilmiller and Brehmer were also indicted on a count of first-degree solicitation to commit murder. Brehmer was additionally indicted on one count of tampering with physical evidence; McIntosh was indicted on four counts of tampering with physical evidence.
The court documents state Brehmer and Schilmiller, whom she knew as "Tyler," met and began an online relationship within the past several months. Using a photograph of a young male who was not himself, he convinced her he was a millionaire.
"Interviews and recovered cell phone evidence reveals that during the course of Schilmiller's and Brehmer's relationship, and several weeks before Hoffman's murder, the two began discussing a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska," the documents read.
More evidence showed that at some point during May and early June 2019 the group met to discuss the plan to carry out the murder and the Alaskans decided to split and share the money. It was then, according to court documents, that Hoffman was selected as the group's target.
Hoffman is described in the documents as Brehmer's "best friend."
Digital evidence and statements show Brehmer was communicating, sending videos and photographs to Schilmiller at his direction "of the events surrounding the incident" and "throughout the duration of the event." According to the bail memorandum, there is no indication that Hoffman was sexually assaulted.
If convicted at trial, the defendants being charged as adults could face up to 99 years of imprisonment for each of the murder charges, the conspiracy to commit murder charge and the solicitation to commit murder charge. The DOL says that Brehmer and McIntosh could face an additional five years in prison for each tampering with physical evidence charge.
Schilmiller is currently in custody. An Alaska arrest warrant in the amount of $1 million was issued for him. According to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska Bryan Schroder's office, Schilmiller will be arraigned once he is extradited to Alaska to face charges. He is not to have contact with Brehmer, McIntosh, Leyland or the two juveniles.
Brehmer, McIntosh and Leyland are in the custody of the Department of Corrections. They will be arraigned Tuesday, June 18 in superior court.
The juveniles are also in custody; the DOL is not providing further information regarding them.
A community in mourning
Through it all, the community has gathered around the Hoffman family.
The Carousel Lounge in Spenard held a concert fundraiser to help with expenses, raising more than $1,200 in just four hours.
For Hoffman's funeral, a motorcycle procession began at the American Legion Post 1 in Midtown Anchorage and moved through town on the New Seward Highway to the Cremation Society of Alaska.
More than 150 close friends, family and community members met to share their memories of their daughter, sister and friend. Hoffman's sisters reflected on their memories and her younger sister sang a song to bid farewell.
Hoffman's family says they'll always remember her spirit.
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