The Murder of Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman

Cynthia "CeeCee" Hoffman

Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman, 19, was shot in the head in Thunderbird Creek, Eagle River, Alaska. Denali Brehmer, 16; Kayden McIntosh, 16; Caleb Leyland, 19; and two unnamed minor children were convicted of her murder. Darin Schilmiller, 21, of New Salisbury, Indiana, was convicted of producing and receiving child pornography in addition to offering Brehmer $9 million for videotaping a murder.

The Death of Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman

Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman, 19, was a hard-working, fun and loving member of a very large, blended family. She had struggled academically due to slight developmental delays. After working incredibly hard, she graduated from Service High School in 2018. On June 3, 2019, CeeCee was expected to meet up with one of her siblings at a local mall but never showed up. This type of behavior was very unlike hers. CeeCee’s family contacted the Anchorage Police Department and filed a missing person’s report. The family began looking for her, also organizing search parties consisting of family, friends, and the greater community.

The Thunderbird Falls Trail, near where the murder occurred Source: Matt Tunseth/Chugiak-Eagle Star

Timothy Hoffman Sr. contacted Denali Brehmer, CeeCee’s best friend. Brehmer told him they had gone to smoke marijuana at a local park; an activity that was definitely out of character. Brehmer had also told him that CeeCee had demanded to be let out of the vehicle at a park at Thunderbird Creek. Brehmer told Hoffman, Sr. that she was sure that CeeCee would return.

Cynthia CeeCee Hoffman’s body was recovered in a creek near Thunderbird Falls on June 4, 2019.

The Investigation of Cynthia Hoffman’s Death

Investigators interviewed Denali Brehmer, hoping to gain any additional clues about CeeCee’s disappearance. Brehmer told investigators a different story than what she told the Hoffman family. She stated that CeeCee, Kayden McIntosh, Caleb Leyland, two unnamed minors, and herself had been smoking marijuana when they stopped at the Thunderbird Falls trailhead in Chugiak, near Eagle, AK. The group decided to duct tape each other and take photographs. Brehmer explained CeeCee was duct taped over her mouth, hands, and feet. CeeCee panicked and the group removed the duct tape from her mouth and hands. Once her mouth was uncovered, CeeCee told the group that she was going to report them to the police for kidnapping and sexual assault. Brehmer was in possession of a Keltec 9mm handgun. In response to CeeCee’s threats, McIntosh took the gun from Brehmer and shot CeeCee in the head. The group then pushed her into the Eklutna River at Thunderbird Falls. They drove to another park where they burned the firearm, CeeCee’s clothes, purse, and other personal items.

When investigators questioned Caleb Leyland, he explained his role in the murder. He stated that the group of six had been driving around the area with his Chevy Trailblazer. He stated that five people in the group had murdered CeeCee.

Denali Brehmer Source: Bill Roth/ADN

The Investigation Uncovers Several Other Crimes

Investigators uncovered several text messages, conversations, photos, and videos sent from Brehmer’s cell phone to a man titled “Babe” on her cell phone contact list. Brehmer identified the man as “Tyler” who lived in Kansas. The correspondence between the two outlined the murder of CeeCee in exchange for $9 million. Brehmer’s Snapchat account showed photographs of CeeCee before and after her murder, which she had sent to “Tyler”. Brehmer had intentions of splitting the money with the other members of the group to help her with the murder. Investigators determined that the person Brehmer believed to be “Tyler” was a false identity and he was not a millionaire.

Darin Schilmiller

Investigators traced the cell phone number for “Tyler” to a man named Darin Schilmiller, 21, a resident of New Salisbury, Indiana. Schilmiller had a history of charges regarding inappropriateness towards children. Detectives learned that prior to their current case, Schilmiller had made a request to a California woman who he had been in contact with. His request was nude photographs of her baby, including soiled diapers. The woman immediately stopped all communication with Schilmiller and reported him to the Indiana authorities. Indiana authorities investigated the allegations but were unable to collect solid evidence. They closed the complaint without taking further action.

Investigators also learned through Schilmiller’s messages that he had told Brehmer that he had child pornographic fantasies and rape fantasies. Besides the assurance of pay for the video of Hoffman’s murder, Brehmer’s cell phone text log showed Schilmiller convinced Brehmer to produce and send video of her sexual assaulting of two separate minor children, ages 8-years-old and 15-years-old, for his benefit. She executed both instances of sexual abuse between June 2, 2019 and June 4, 2019. FBI special agents outlined the two offense charges as Production of Visual Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct, and Attempted Receipt of Visual Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct.

The Arrests Are Made

On June 14, 2018, an indictment was set for Darin Schilmiller, Denali Brehmer, Kayden McIntosh, Caleb Leyland, minor Jane Doe, and minor John Doe. The indictment charges were listed as murder in the first-degree, conspiracy to commit murder in the first-degree, solicitation to commit murder in the first-degree, and two counts of murder in the second-degree. In addition, Brehmer faced one count of tampering with evidence, while McIntosh faced four counts of tampering with evidence.

On June 18, 2018, Denali Brehmer, Kayden McIntosh, and Caleb Leyland were arraigned. The cases against McIntosh and Leyland remain open and pending. Investigators uncovered additional details that Leyland sexually assaulted a minor so he will also face charges of first-degree sexual assault and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

Caleb Leyland Source: Bill Roth/ADN

Regarding Brehmer and Schilmiller, there are two separate cases that they both face. A state first-degree murder charge and federal child pornography charges.

US Marshals arrested Schilmiller at the New Salisbury, Indiana residence of an elderly relative where he was staying. His federal indictment includes conspiracy to produce child pornography, production of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, and coercion and enticement of a minor. Schilmiller will face charges in Alaska in July 2023, regarding the murder. The federal child pornography charges are expected to be combined with Denali Brehmer.

Kayden McIntosh Source: Bill Roth/ADN

On February 15, 2023, Denali Brehmer pleaded guilty (in the state’s case) to one count of first-degree murder in the death of Cynthia Hoffman, in exchange for dismissal of the charges of conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation of murder, tampering with physical evidence and two counts of second-degree murder. Her sentencing hearing is expected to take place in August 2023, although a definitive date has not been set yet. For this charge, the prison sentence range is 30-99 years.

The Funeral for Cynthia Hoffman

Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman funeral was held on June 13, 2019 at the Faith Community Church in Anchorage, Alaska. She was cremated by the Cremation Society of Alaska in Anchorage, Alaska.

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