Denali Brehmer, now 22, is accused of killing 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman on June 2, 2019, according to a statement from the State of Alaska's Department of Law.
Brehmer pleaded guilty to murder in the first degree in Anchorage Superior Court.
Hoffman, the victim, was developmentally disabled, WTHR reported. Hoffman reportedly considered Brehmer to be her "best friend."
Brehmer was allegedly "catfished" by Darin Schilmiller, an Indiana man who was 21 at the time.
Schilmiller, posing online as a Kansas millionaire called "Tyler," offered Brehmer "nine or more million dollars" to "rape and murder someone in Alaska," the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Who is involved?
The victim, Cynthia Hoffman, was 19 years old. She was developmentally disabled, and considered the person accused of murdering her, Denali Brehmer, to be her "best friend." She was bound and shot in the back of the head.
Denali Brehmer, now 22, was 18-years-old at the time of the alleged murder. She had established an online relationship with an Indiana man going by the name of "Tyler," who told Brehmer he was a millionaire from Kansas.
The "Tyler" with whom Brehmer thought she was corresponding, is actually Darin Schiilmiller of New Salisbury, Indiana, according to the IndyStar. Schilmiller, age 21 at the time, was indicted on federal murder charges shortly after Hoffman's body was discovered. Schilmiller "offered to pay Brehmer $9 million or more to carry out the murder and send him videos and pohtos of the crime."
Brehmer reportedly recruited four others to help her carry out the crime. The two recruits who were charged in the incident were then 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh and then 19-year-old Caleb Leyland. Other recruits included a pair of unnamed juveniles. Brehemer and the teen recruits who allegedly helped in the planning and execution of the murder told their victim they were taking her on a hike.
When and where did this happen?
Cynthia Hoffman's alleged murder happened June 2, 2019. Her body was "dumped in the Eklutna River, about 27 miles northeast of Anchorage," according to court documents reviewed by NBC.
Hoffman's body was found near Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, Alaska two days later, the outlet also reported. She had been bound and shot in the back of the head.
Brehmer pleaded guilty to murder in the first degree February 15, 2023. Her guilty plea was accepted by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson. Sentencing is scheduled for August 22 before the same judge, KINY reported.
What is catfishing?
"Catfishing involves using a false identity to start an online relationship. It can occur in dating apps, on social media or via messaging or email," ConnectSafely explains in a piece exploring the dangerous practice.
ConnectSafely warns that catfishing can be part of a financial scam or even result in victims being assaulted if the relationship moves from the digital to the physical realm.
The Silicon Valley-based nonprofit further cautions people to be particularly suspicious when an online stranger's photo looks "too good to be true," if the person asks for money or sexually explicit photos, or if the person avoids requests for video chats or in-person meetings.