The Internet is a great place to meet people. In recent years, social media has changed the way that human beings interact. In a way, it’s changed our whole social dynamic. It’s made it so much easier for those who are marginalized or lonely can connect with just about anyone like them.
In the same way, though, the Internet has also made the world a more dangerous place for impressionable young people unaccustomed to mistrust. Think of it, if your whole life is out there on Facebook and Instagram, what do you have to hide? Who do you have to hide from or mistrust? Still, there are some people you simply don’t want to trust, even on the Internet…
18-year-old Denali Brehmer was gearing up for something important. She wondered if she had what it took to do what needed to be done, what he had asked her to do. It meant luring her friend Cynthia Hoffman out into the Alaskan wilderness. She wasn’t alone, however, she had a group of friends to join her.
Brehmer had invited Cynthia to join them on a hike down the Thunderbird Falls Trail. It was June and though the walk was bound to be difficult, Cynthia was more than happy to hang out with her friend. Things had been weird with her in recent months and she hoped that this hike might explain things. It did at that…
Bound to Go Wrong
Yet even as the group of friends made their way down the trail, something about Denali Brehmer seemed off. Cynthia couldn’t put her finger on it. She wouldn’t get the time to suss it out, unfortunately, however. At one point, Cynthia found herself accosted by her so-called friends. Her hands and feet were bound and duct tape was placed over her mouth.
Before Cynthia could even put up a fight or argue, Brehmer shot her in the head, killing her instantly. After that, she tried to cover her tracks by texting the Hoffman family from Cynthia’s phone. The text told them that she had been dropped off at another state park. But why would an 18-year-old girl kill her best friend? And why involve others?
Days later, Alaskan authorities discovered Cynthia Hoffman’s body in a river near an Anchorage hiking trail. There was no evidence of sexual assault, only the single fatal gunshot wound at the back of her head. They didn’t know what they were dealing with. Without the evidence of sexual assault, they needed to look into her close contacts; perhaps someone with whom she fought?
Their first suspect was obviously Brehmer, whom Cynthia’s parents had known and who had invited her out on the hike that day, to begin with. They subpoenaed her phone records and found that on the day of Cynthia’s disappearance, she had deleted a whole series of texts with someone very far away from Alaska. A man named Darin Schilmiller…
Eventually, after being questioned by police, Brehmer came clean. She confessed to being the person that shot and killed Cynthia Hoffman. She was charged with conspiracy and murder in the first degree, two counts of second-degree murder, and five counts of tampering with evidence. But there was so much more to the story.
The Sick Truth
Darin Schilmiller, the man with whom Brehmer had been corresponding prior to Cynthia’s death, was a 21-year-old living in New Salisbury, Indiana. To Daneli Brehmer, however, he was Tyler, a millionaire who had been urging her and her friends to commit murder and tape it for him. He was paying quite a bit for the task as well, or so he said…
Meeting a Millionaire
It was only then, as Brehmer sat in a jail cell waiting for her day in court, that she realized she had been catfished. Schilmiller had lied about everything. He said he was a millionaire, that hed lived in Kansas, that he cared about her. But he was after something else entirely, something he couldn’t get on his own.
Schilmiller wanted a patsy, someone he could use to commit murder, to rape, and kill in his name. All of these things were discussed in their phone conversations but obviously, Brehmer hadn’t sexually assaulted Cynthia, and neither had any of her accomplices. You see, Schilmiller had used a rather conventional means to secure more culprits for his sick endeavor…
Brehmer had gotten four of her friends, including 19-year-old Caleb Leyland and 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh, to help bring Schilmiller’s plan to fruition. The other two were not named but signed on for the same reasons. All of them had been promised a tidy sum from the alleged millionaire for their complicity in the murder.
A Tidy Sum
Caleb Leyland told the police that he had been promised $500,000 for his role in the murder. As for Brehmer, she had been promised a whopping nine million dollars or more to commit the crime, photograph or videotape it, and send it to Schilmiller. All of these kids were gullible to believe that Schilmiller was telling the truth, but not only that, they were all willing to murder for money as well…
Eventually, the Indiana state police caught up to Schilmiller himself. He was arrested and confessed to his role as “Tyler,” he also admitted that he had planned everything for three weeks prior to the killing. This meant that Brehmer and her friends had three weeks to back out of murder and they didn’t. That’s cold, even for $9 million.
Brehmer and Schilmiller were in constant contact during that time. She shared Snapchat photos, videos, and long, emotional texts. She was smitten and he knew it, but he wanted more control over her. So he pitched the murder, offered the money, and began formulating a plan that would test her resolve and her dedication to him even further…
Not only did Schilmiller convince her to kill her best friend, he knew that by forcing her to do so, but he could also blackmail her into doing even more depraved things for his amusement. One of those things ended up being committing sexual assault on an alleged 15-year-old girl after the killing was completed.
FBI agents found the evidence of this alleged sexual assault on Brehmer’s phone as well. There was no denying the full extent of what they had done any longer. Schilmiller was brought in and charged. There was just one problem. Regardless of how sinister or abhorrent his manipulations against Brehmer may have been, they couldn’t charge him outright for murder…
All that Indiana could do, was charge Schilmiller with the production of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and attempted receipt of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. That was all Indiana could do, anyway. Alaska had different jurisdiction for Cynthia’s murder.
As for Denali Brehmer, she has admitted wholeheartedly that she knows now what she did was wrong. She has pleaded for mercy from the court and has stated that she doesn’t want her daughter to know that her mother “grew up a killer.” This wasn’t enough for the victim’s father, Timothy Hoffman, however…
Didn’t Deserve It
Timothy Hoffman spoke to reporters about how sickened he was by his daughter’s untimely and wholly undeserved passing. “All I know is that my daughter didn’t deserve all this,” he explained. “She should have had the friends that she wanted. She shouldn’t have had people that wanted to plot against her…And the ages of these people? I think it is sick…”
Monitor Your Kids
When all is said and done, this story is a cautionary tale for children and parents alike. There are unseen dangers lurking out there. Those who are too young or ignorant to see predators for what they are can easily fall prey to their manipulations. We can only hope that sick people like Schilmiller will get their just desserts for the evil they’ve done.