Denali Brehmer gets 99 years for murder of Cynthia Hoffman at Thunderbird Falls

Left to right, Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Patrick McKay Jr.; Emily Cooper, defense attorney; Denali Brehmer. Photo credit: Alaska Department of Law, Patty Sullivan.

Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, of Anchorage, now 24 years old, was sentenced by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson for the murder of Cynthia Hoffman near Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak. The murder was committed on June 2, 2019.

Brehmer had pleaded guilty a year ago to one count of Murder in the First Degree.

Hoffman, who thought Brehmer was a friend, was lured by Brehmer and other friends to the banks of the Eklutna River and shot near Thunderbird Falls. Then, Brehmer and the accomplices dumped her body into the river. Investigators later learned that Darin Schilmiller had solicited the murder of Hoffman from Brehmer.

Schilmiller also solicited child pornography from Brehmer, conduct that led to additional federal charges.

Brehmer’s sentencing occurred over three days. The court was permitted to sentence Brehmer to a sentence of active imprisonment between 30 and 99 years.

The State requested a sentence of 99 years with none suspended and a “worst offender” finding.

Brehmer requested a sentence of 80 years with 20 years suspended.

“The Court should find that Miss Brehmer engaged in one of the most serious crimes that we have in Alaska,” said Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Patrick McKay. “She executed Cynthia Hoffman in a murder-for-hire plot. She conspired with numerous other individuals in and outside of Alaska, including juveniles, forever altering everybody’s life. She may not have pulled the trigger, but this never would have happened it if it weren’t for Denali Brehmer.”

The murder of Hoffman was a premeditated, and was a murder-for-hire, Peterson said, calling Brehmer’s conduct “cold, calculated, and carried out to a ‘T’.”

Judge Peterson said he found that Brehmer’s conduct was among the most serious first-degree murder cases and among the most serious contract killing cases. Judge Peterson described watching a video of Cynthia Hoffman’s last moments where she was observed duct taped on the ground at Thunderbird Falls “…one of the most difficult pieces of evidence I’ve had to watch in this position.”

Judge Peterson said Brehmer showed no remorse after the murder and, in fact, went on to engage in other criminal conduct.

Although Brehmer was a youthful offender and “youth matters,” Peterson said Brehmer clearly knew what she was doing and that this was not merely “youthful indiscretion.”

Brehmer was sentenced to 99 years with none suspended and was found to be a “worst offender.”

Darin Schilmiller, of Indiana, was sentenced to 99 years with none suspended for his role in the murder.

Caleb Leyland’s sentencing is scheduled for June 10, 2024, in front of Judge Peterson.

Kayden McIntosh’s case is pending trial. McIntosh is the one who is accused of actually pulling the trigger on the weapon. He has had several court dates over the years.

This case was investigated by the Anchorage Police Department’s homicide unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation based out of Alaska and Indiana, and the Indiana State Police. Brehmer is in the custody of the Alaska Department of Corrections.


  1. *shudder. These kind of things are every parent worse nightmare. 1st your “baby” you have to bury. 2 they were indicted and sentenced murder charge and you know your “baby” is guilty. The guests I assume are family members representing the decease and the defendant; they look so sad. She hurt more people than just the victim that day. I’m glad the camera got the gallery in its frame. It’s easy for us the public be too harsh or condemning on the defendant, the public we forget there are people closely involved or closely related to the defendant and victim. How negative the public response can negatively impact how well and how quickly the survivors can reach a point of forgiveness and full healing afterward. Probably be best if the public just be quiet.

  2. Really? My comment deleted? But I sorta knew it would.

    Look, if you want to have rules of engagement, fine. Just post them clearly somewhere.

  3. Let’s see if this one gets past the bots/censors/whatever.

    Instead of the justice he deserves and isn’t getting, how about we give him puppies, crayons, a high paying state job, daily back rubs and one girl a year to murder.

  4. Most criminals (roughly 80% I’ve read) are trying to solve what they perceive as a problem, unfortunately resorting to unethical and illegal means. These people have the best chance at rehabilitation if they can be reached while they are still human, i.e., before too much time in the corrections system associating with the true sociopaths degrades them into sociopaths themselves, and if the crime(s) are not too heinous The other roughly 20% are the true sociopaths, who commit crimes not to solve what they perceive to be a problem, but because they are so degraded as to not even be human anymore and just want to watch the world burn: that roughly 20% cannot be, and will not be, rehabilitated. The best that can be done for them (and everyone else), if the DP cannot be implemented, is to lock them away in a room and throw away the room. I think the involved in the subject case fall into the latter group for sure.

    • Denali Brehmer is an especially sad person, because she coordinated and
      Participated in a murder for hire, but she also committed sexual abuse of a minor. These are truly heinous crimes, and I’m sorry for any young person who’s moral compass is so corroded at such an early age. It makes me wonder what her home life must have been. I’m not excusing her actions, but I do sincerely hope there are persons in her life who love her enough to ask themselves, “what could we have done differently?”

      I pray for all involved in this tragedy.


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