When 19-year-old Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman didn’t return home from a hiking trip with friends on June 3, 2019, her father knew something was wrong. Timothy Hoffman rushed to the local police station to file a missing person report, but he had a terrible feeling inside. CeeCee never went more than three hours without calling.
Timothy’s search efforts ended the following day when his daughter’s body was found in a river. Her death was not an accident, and as the investigation into CeeCee’s death began, the police realized there was much more to the story. Find out how this Alaskan teen’s death became known as a $9 million murder.
An Online Romance
Gone are the days of traditional teen romances where two people meet in class and fall in love. Today everything happens online, and that’s where this tragedy begins. In the desolate state of Alaska, teenager Denali Brehmer was scrolling through social media when she got an interesting request on Snapchat.
A 21-year-old named Tyler started messaging Brehmer, claiming he lived in Kansas and was a multi-millionaire. That seems too good to be true, but the young teenager believed his story. Brehmer was head over heels for Tyler as their romance developed, even though she had never met him.
The distance between Brehmer and Tyler was only a minor inconvenience because she found someone who could listen to her problems without judgment. Brehmer told Tyler how she and her half-sister were placed in foster care after abuse allegations were filed against their mom. She also started using fake names.
The names, including Dakota, Angela, and Angel (the one she used online), were Brehmer’s way of hiding from her real life. Tyler didn’t care that she had a troubled past, was only 18, and already had a daughter of her own who was given up for adoption. He earned her trust by accepting her flaws.
He Had Dark Secrets
Tyler would listen to Brehmer talk about things she never told anyone, and he thought it was time to share some of his own dark secrets. However, instead of talking about his past, Tyler gradually introduced his twisted fantasies. Brehmer’s fairytale romance with Prince Charming started to take a turn.
He would insert his strange desires into their conversations whenever possible, hinting that he wanted Brehmer to help him fulfill them. Tyler wanted to make his fantasies a reality, and he used the teen’s vulnerability to manipulate her into doing whatever he wanted. She hated her life, and he provided an escape.
Making a Deal
She chose to ignore the red flags when Tyler asked Brehmer to assault and murder someone in Alaska. He said in exchange for videos and pictures of the deed, he would pay her $9 million. Brehmer came from a low-income family, so the promise of money was enough for her to agree.
Most people would have reported this person long ago, but Brehmer didn’t have those intuitions. Maybe she was blinded by love or the thought of being a millionaire because she quickly accepted his offer without giving it a second thought. She didn’t care about the potential consequences at stake.
She Needed Help
If Brehmer wanted to pull off her plan, she would need some help. In May 2019, she asked a few of her friends to skip school and smoke in the woods. While they were getting high, Brehmer told them about Tyler and his offer.
The first to agree was 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh. He was homeless, and the thought of making seven figures for one murder seemed like a good deal for him. He didn’t need to find a gun because Brehmer already had one. All they needed was a getaway car.
Adding to the Team
After McIntosh agreed, the second recruit was 19-year-old Caleb Leyland. She offered him $500,000 to borrow his truck for the day. He didn’t even ask why they needed his car or how they would get the money because their offer was too good to pass up.
Brehmer had everything she needed, but she decided to ask two other people to help with the planning. Their names and roles are protected because they were minors at the time and too young to be identified. It’s bizarre how easily she found people to help her.
Finalizing the Plan
It took Brehmer less than two weeks to recruit a five-person hit squad comprised of her teenage friends. In late May, the teens met to finalize the plan, each being promised a huge sum of money for their help and silence. They only had one more task.
The group agreed that June 2, 2019, would be the right day to implement their plan, and Brehmer already had a victim in mind. She decided someone very close to her would meet a horrific end because someone on the internet told her to do it.
Her Father Worried
On June 3, 2019, Timothy Hoffman quickly rode his motorcycle to the Anchorage Police Station. He was there to file a missing person report for his daughter, Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman. The 19-year-old had left for a hiking trip with some friends the previous day and never returned.
While staying out past curfew might be normal for most teenagers, it wasn’t like CeeCee. Timothy said his daughter was developmentally delayed and had a mental age closer to that of a 12-year-old. She never stayed out alone and usually checked in every three hours.
CeeCee hadn’t texted or called her father. The last anyone had heard of CeeCee’s whereabouts was in a text message from Angela (one of Brehmer’s fake names). She and a young boy (McIntosh) had picked CeeCee up to go hiking in a national park near Anchorage.
She told CeeCee’s dad that they had dropped CeeCee off at a park on the outskirts of town in the afternoon because that’s what his daughter requested. Timothy told “Angela” that CeeCee hadn’t come home, and she replied, “I hope she comes home safely. She’s my best friend.”
He Couldn’t Find Her
After reporting her missing, Timothy drove around town looking for his daughter. He drove through the woods and down bike paths, hoping she was just lost. However, his search came up empty. CeeCee was nowhere to be found, so Timothy went home for the night.
The following day, the police knocked on his door, and he already knew what they were going to say. CeeCee’s body had been found on the bank of the Eklunta River, 30 miles from Anchorage. Her feet were duct-taped together, and she had a single bullet wound in her head.
A Weak Alibi
Brehmer and McIntosh didn’t deny that they went on a hike with CeeCee, but their alibi was that they dropped her off in the park after. Timothy only knew Brehmer as Angela, and he told the police she was the last person to see his daughter alive.
Investigators tracked down “Angela,” figuring out her real name. She and McIntosh were brought in for questioning two days after CeeCee was found, and their alibi crumbled quickly. Brehmer was the first to throw her friend under the bus, thinking she could save herself.
She Told Her Mom
When investigators connected Brehmer to CeeCee, they contacted Brehmer’s mom, Nicole House. House said Brehmer and a friend she thought was named Anthony were at home on the night of June 2. Her mom didn’t have much information, but she dropped a bombshell.
House stated that Brehmer and “Anthony” (McIntosh) told her that “Anthony” had shot CeeCee in the head and pushed her into the water. If her mom knew this information, why didn’t she call the police? And why did they tell Brehmer’s mom if they didn’t want to get caught?
Brehmer’s Version of the Story
Brehmer told the police that she, CeeCee, and McIntosh met on the morning of June 2, planning to spend the day at the Thunderbird Falls trail. When they arrived at the park, Brehmer shared her strange idea. She asked her friends if they wanted to duct tape each other and do a photoshoot.
She conveniently had a roll of duct tape and a 9mm pistol in the glove box. No one opposed her idea, so they set off into the woods, taking a detour onto an empty trail along the river. They came across an opening and stopped to “take pictures.”
She Blamed McIntosh
Brehmer claimed CeeCee was the first to be willingly taped up. They taped her ankles and hands and covered her mouth. Brehmer posed with the gun pointing at CeeCee because it was supposed to be a kidnapping-themed photoshoot. However, CeeCee started to panic.
She struggled, so Brehmer removed the tape from her mouth and hands. Still, CeeCee wouldn’t calm down. She started screaming and threatened to call the police to report Brehmer and McIntosh. According to Brehmer, when CeeCee reached for her phone, McIntosh took the gun and shot her.
He Was Arrested
In Brehmer’s story, she said she was shocked that McIntosh shot her best friend right in front of her for no reason. As CeeCee lay on the ground dying, McIntosh dragged her into the river. McIntosh didn’t deny this version of events when the police questioned him.
McIntosh told the police that he “blacked out” but had memories of pulling the trigger. With Brehmer’s version of events and McIntosh’s admission, authorities had enough to arrest him. Brehmer seemed like a shocked bystander, so the police let her walk away.
She Almost Let Him Take the Blame
Brehmer was shocked that the police believed her story and went on with her life. She could have let McIntosh take the blame, but something changed. She was waiting to get her money because $9 million would have been enough for her and Tyler to start a new life together.
Instead of paying her, Tyler started planning another murder for hire. The days passed, and Brehmer realized that Tyler had no intention of paying her in the first place. She discovered that her mystery man was not the millionaire he claimed to be.
A Disturbing Request
Tyler became hungry with power after the murder and confessed to wanting to buy explicit photos of underage kids. He requested Brehmer’s help, offering her more money, so she sent him explicit photos of herself. But that wasn’t enough to satisfy him.
Tyler told Brehmer he wanted to see someone younger. She agreed to help, sending him photos of a 15-year-old girl. He also convinced Brehmer to film herself with an eight-year-old girl. She exploited these young girls just days after CeeCee’s murder.
He Blackmailed Her
Even though she knew she had been catfished, Tyler had the upper hand because he had all the evidence to show that Brehmer had killed CeeCee. His messages took on a threatening tone. Tyler wrote, “We can meet, but once I see a cop, I’m telling them what you did.”
She kept her end of the bargain for a few days before she broke down. Brehmer posted a video to Snapchat in which she admitted to her part in the crime. She said she wished she could take it back and didn’t mean to do it.
The police came to take Brehmer in for more questioning, and she was forced to fill them in on everything she left out the first time because there was no one to hide behind. Brehmer admitted that she put the plan in motion and asked her friends for help.
Brehmer also told the police about Tyler from Kansas and his $9 million offer. She revealed that most of the original story was true, but CeeCee was forcibly bound. Brehmer shared that she was an active participant and filmed the entire thing for Tyler.
Brehmer came clean about everything that really happened that day. She admitted that she sent Snapchats to Tyler as McIntosh tied up CeeCee. She filmed CeeCee crying out for help and continued to take pictures of McIntosh shooting her in the back of the head.
She was unphased as she photographed and filmed everything until CeeCee’s body was in the river. Brehmer sent all the pictures and videos to Tyler through Snapchat before she and McIntosh walked back to the truck, sent the decoy text to CeeCee’s father, and left.
Her Accomplices Were Arrested
After driving away from the park, Brehmer and McIntosh returned the truck to Caleb Leyland. He and the younger accomplices then burned CeeCee’s ID, clothes, purse, and the gun used to kill her. The three teens were brought to the police station on June 10.
Brehmer decided that if she went down, everyone would go down with her. Still, this left her penniless, humiliated, and stuck behind bars for planning and murdering her so-called best friend. But the true mastermind was still hiding behind a screen in another state.
He Didn’t Try to Hide
Using the word “mastermind” is a bit of a stretch because Tyler used a phone number attached to his real name and address. When the police went through Brehmer’s phone, they found a contact listed as “Babe” and quickly connected it to the man claiming to be Tyler.
In reality, Brehmer had been talking to 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller from Indiana. He looked nothing like the young man in his pictures and was definitely not a millionaire. It didn’t take long for the media to swarm Schilmiller’s tiny hometown.
Nothing Nice to Say
For someone who fantasizes about underage girls killing for fun, Schilmiller was about as bad as people expected. His former schoolmate revealed that he had been making fake social media profiles to get pictures from younger classmates for years. He then started asking women for pictures.
When his classmates grew up, Schilmiller reportedly asked women for pictures of their children’s dirty diapers. Everyone in the small town knew Schilmiller wasn’t like everyone else, and the FBI even investigated him in 2018.
After the murder, Brehmer and Schilmiller deleted their texts, so the police subpoenaed Verizon to get a copy of their messages. Forensic technicians recovered lots of data from their phones, incriminating them in the murder and sending pictures of underage children.
Brehmer found herself at the mercy of this mystery person she thought she loved. While she is not a victim, she had her back against the wall and probably chose to turn herself in before he made her do anything else. She could have stopped this months before the murder happened.
They Are Facing Many Charges
Brehmer, Schilmiller, McIntosh, Leyland, and the two other juveniles face charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and tampering with evidence. Schilmiller was extradited from Indiana to Alaska following his arrest. The FBI swooped him up from his grandmother’s basement.
Brehmer and Schilmiller face additional charges for sending and possessing explicit photos of minors and sexual assault on two minors. Everyone involved should be very worried because they could serve up to 99 years if convicted of the murder charges. At least the trial will give the murderous couple a chance to meet in person.
A Slow Process
Due to their haphazard and poor planning, everyone involved in CeeCee’s murder is behind bars, and there is no way they will get away with it. These teens made the prosecutor’s job easy because there was so much incriminating evidence.
While the investigation was quick, the same can’t be said for the legal proceedings. The teens were arrested in June 2019 and are still awaiting trial three years later. There have been many delays in the legal system, so it could be a while until they stand trial.
He Pled Not Guilty
In August 2019, Schilmiller pled not guilty to five counts of murder. Although there was an overwhelming amount of evidence against him, he believed he didn’t do anything wrong because he wasn’t physically present during the murder. Schilmiller was the mastermind behind the whole thing.
He might have kept his hands clean by making someone else commit the murder, but he was just as much a part of the plan as the others involved. Schilmiller even asked for photos and videos of the murder. He got enjoyment out of it.
He Changed His Statement
Although he initially pled not guilty, Schilmiller later confessed to masterminding the crime. While sitting in jail, he claimed he was the one who chose CeeCee as the victim. However, he never met CeeCee or knew about her, so he probably didn’t tell Brehmer who to kill.
Everyone has admitted their involvement in the murder, and they face up to 99 years in prison. CeeCee’s father feels that 99 years is not long enough. Alaska doesn’t have the death penalty, so Timothy will have to settle for life behind bars.
Hoping to Shift the Blame
As it stands, the six people who participated in the crime have all pled not guilty. Despite admitting their involvement, it seems like they are all hoping to shift the responsibility up the chain of command to get lighter sentences.
Brehmer, Schilmiller, and McIntosh will most likely receive harsher sentences than Leyland and the unknown minors. Although he was only 16 at the time, McIntosh is being tried as an adult because he was the one who pulled the trigger that killed CeeCee. But it will be a while before we know what happens.
There Have Been Delays
In January 2020, a judge rescheduled a discovery hearing for Brehmer, McIntosh, Leyland, and Schilmiller. The initial hearing was scheduled for October 2019 but was postponed because attorneys requested an extension to go through 160 pages of information related to the case.
The second rescheduling occurred because the prosecution turned over 56 GB of evidence to the defense team. The new information was data collected from Brehmer and Schilmiller’s cellphones. According to Assistant District Attorney Patrick McKay, it is over 60,000 pages. They have taken several months to go through it.
She Trusted Them
Timothy is still fighting for justice for his daughter’s murder. He said he will be at every court date until it ends. At Brehmer’s arraignment, Timothy said CeeCee was “an angel. She was a daddy’s girl.” He also said that his daughter trusted Brehmer and thought they were friends.
CeeCee posted a picture with Brehmer on her Instagram with the caption, “BFF.” She just wanted to have friends, which might have made her vulnerable to Brehmer and the other teens. CeeCee was a good girl, and they took advantage of her innocence.
Choosing Money Over a Human Life
Brehmer and her team of teenage killers were cold and calculated. They cared more about their chances of getting money than CeeCee’s life. All it took was the promise of being paid for five teens to obey a twisted man’s orders.
Brehmer had never even met Schilmiller, and she trusted him to hold up his end of the deal. She was so willing to do whatever he asked without question. Sadly, CeeCee had to pay the price for another teenager’s horrific and stupid actions. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen again.
A Life Cut Short
Before her murder, CeeCee was studying in a post-high school skills program to learn life skills so she could one day be self-sufficient. The teenager worked as a handyman assistant to her father on the weekends. She was supposed to collect money from a job the night she didn’t return.
Timothy later said, “In this family, you all have phones. When dad calls, you answer.” CeeCee had a life ahead of her, and it was all taken away. While Brehmer hasn’t revealed why she chose CeeCee, the girl was an easy target because they were close friends.
On the first anniversary of her death, Timothy held a memorial ride with the Alaskan biker community to raise money for Victims for Justice. The non-profit organization has aided and advised him throughout the ordeal. Timothy has done everything to keep his daughter’s memory alive.
She may be gone, but CeeCee will never be forgotten. She was a happy person and is remembered each year at Anchorage’s annual Homicide Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony raises awareness and honors Alaskans whose lives have been cut short due to acts of violence.
A Warning to Others
At the pre-trial hearing, the US Attorney in Alaska said, “For all the good the internet can do, it can be a very dark place. Parents would be wise to monitor the activity of their children online.” This case is a warning for parents to teach their children about internet safety.
While this was an unusual case, teens can easily be fooled into talking to strangers. There are many bad people on the internet, and CeeCee’s death could have been prevented. While you can’t monitor everything a teenager does online, you can educate them.