Alaska Woman Gets 99 Years for Arranging Murder of Best Friend

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An Alaska woman who arranged to have her best friend killed in 2019 after a man she met online promised her $9 million to do so was sentenced on Monday to 99 years in prison, state prosecutors said.

Judge Andrew Peterson of Anchorage Superior Court sentenced the woman, Denali Brehmer, 23, of Anchorage, who pleaded guilty last year to one count of first-degree murder in the death of the friend, Cynthia Hoffman, the Alaska Department of Law said in a statement.

Evidence presented at the sentencing showed that Ms. Hoffman, 19, was fatally shot on June 2, 2019, on a bank of the Eklutna River near Thunderbird Falls and that her body was later placed in the river, according to the Department of Law. Prosecutors later learned that Ms. Brehmer had been hired to kill Ms. Hoffman in exchange for millions of dollars.

During the hearing, Judge Peterson described the murder of Ms. Hoffman as “tragic and senseless,” the Department of Law said.

Patrick McKay, the Anchorage assistant district attorney, said in court on Monday that Ms. Brehmer “engaged in one of the most serious crimes that we have in Alaska.”

Ms. Brehmer had requested a sentence of 80 years with 20 years suspended, and prosecutors had requested a sentence of 99 years, the Department of Law said.

According to court documents, Ms. Brehmer met a man online who convinced her that his name was Tyler and that he was a millionaire from Kansas. The man offered Ms. Brehmer at least $9 million to kill someone in Alaska and take pictures and video of the murder, according to the indictment.

But in reality, “Tyler” was Darin Schilmiller, 25, of New Salisbury, Ind., and he was not a millionaire, according to the indictment. Mr. Schilmiller was “catfishing” Ms. Brehmer, the indictment said, referring to the act of deceiving someone online by making up a fake identity.

Ms. Brehmer agreed to commit a murder for Mr. Schilmiller, and she enlisted four friends to carry out the killing. The indictment identified two of them as Caleb Leyland, 24, and Kayden McIntosh. Two minors who were not identified in the indictment were also involved, prosecutors said. The group selected Ms. Hoffman as the target, according to the indictment.

On June 2, 2019, Ms. Brehmer, Mr. McIntosh and Ms. Hoffman went to Thunderbird Falls for what was supposed to be a hike, the indictment said. Along the Eklutna River, Ms. Hoffman’s hands and feet were bound with duct tape, and Mr. McIntosh shot her once in the back of the head before she was dumped in the river, according to the charging documents.

Mr. McIntosh later confessed to shooting Ms. Hoffman, prosecutors said.

Mr. McKay, the assistant district attorney, said on Monday that Ms. Brehmer had “conspired with numerous other individuals in and outside of Alaska, including juveniles, forever altering everybody’s life.”

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

Prosecutors said that Mr. Schilmiller had also solicited Ms. Brehmer to try to obtain child pornography, which led to federal charges against her. She pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to produce child pornography, and sentencing in that case is scheduled for March 4, according to court documents. A lawyer for Ms. Brehmer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Schilmiller, who pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder, was sentenced in January to 99 years in prison for his role, according to the Department of Law. He also faces federal child pornography charges.

Mr. Leyland, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in November, is to be sentenced on June 10, the Department of Law said.

Mr. McIntosh awaits trial on murder charges, according to the Department of Law.

Lawyers for Mr. Schilmiller, Mr. Leyland and Mr. McIntosh did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

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