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Crime & Courts

Teens planned killing of woman shot and dumped in river near Thunderbird Falls, charges say

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: June 18
  • Published June 8

People head onto the trail at Thunderbird Falls on June 5. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

Denali Brehmer, an 18-year-old charged with murder in the killing of a woman near Thunderbird Falls last weekend, told police she directed another teen to shoot the woman, according to charges filed against her.

Brehmer and Kayden McIntosh, 16, are both charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman, 19. Brehmer told Anchorage police detectives Friday that she had directed McIntosh to take the 9mm handgun she was carrying and shoot Hoffman in the head.

Meanwhile, McIntosh, who was arrested earlier this week, was telling anyone who came into contact with him at the jail that shooting Hoffman was Brehmer’s idea and that she had been the one to fire the gun, a correctional sergeant told detectives.

Cynthia Hoffman, 19, was killed Sunday, June 2, 2019, near the Thunderbird Falls trail in the Chugiak area. Two teenagers, Denali Brehmer, 18, and Kayden McIntosh, 16, were charged with murder in her death. (Photo courtesy Hoffman family)

When the two teens were initially questioned by police, they told detectives that the trio had decided to duct tape each other and take photos near the popular Thunderbird Falls trail, in the Chugiak area.

According to their accounts, Hoffman started panicking after she was bound. At that point, Brehmer originally told detectives, McIntosh took the gun from her hand and shot Hoffman in the head with it before pushing the 19-year-old’s body into the Eklutna River.

Police found Hoffman’s body in the river Tuesday, where Brehmer told them the killing happened, charges say. Hoffman’s feet were duct taped together.

Brehmer then claimed that McIntosh told her to text Hoffman’s sister and make up a story about dropping her off somewhere. She said she complied because she was scared, the charges against McIntosh say.

A Snapchat video turned over to police on Thursday by a person described in Brehmer’s charges as her friend appears to tell a different story.

In the first of the two videos, Brehmer talks about the investigation, telling the same story she’d originally told police.

Kayden McIntosh, 16, at his arraignment in the Anchorage Correctional Complex courtroom on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, after he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and evidence tampering in the shooting death of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman at Thunderbird Falls. (Bill Roth / ADN)

In the second, according to the charges, McIntosh can be seen walking around in the background while Brehmer tells the camera, “I just want to thank everyone that’s been there for me my whole life and these past few years and everything. I f---ed up, I know I did, if I could take back what I’ve done, I can’t. I’m sorry everybody, my family, my friends. I guess you will hear from me when you hear from me, but I won’t be back for a long time. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it.”

When officers questioned Brehmer later about the videos, she told them she and McIntosh had planned the trip to Thunderbird Falls, the charges say. The two teens had told Hoffman they were going there for a hike, she said.

“Brehmer told Det. Torres that after Cynthia was tied up, she handed Kayden the gun and told him to shoot her because she couldn’t do it, and he shot her," Brehmer’s charges say.

Hoffman’s father, Timothy, said Saturday that his daughter met Brehmer when they were both students at Service High School. Cynthia Hoffman had described Brehmer as her “best friend," he said.

He said a developmental disability that caused his daughter to operate intellectually at about a seventh-grade level had made her vulnerable.

“Her disability just made her want to have friends,” Timothy Hoffman said. “That’s all she wanted, was just to be her friend.”

Anchorage Police Department spokesman MJ Thim said Thursday that Cynthia Hoffman’s disability wasn’t reported to police.

Brehmer is scheduled to make her first court appearance Sunday afternoon.

From left, Leslie Sonnenberg, Michaela Kelly, Timothy Hoffman, and Sydney Hoffman read charging documents before an arraignment for Denali Brehmer Saturday, June 8, 2019 at the Anchorage Jail court. Brehmer has been charged with murder in the killing of Hoffman's daughter Cynthia Hoffman, 19. Brehmer, who is in custody, was not present Saturday and the arraignment was postponed. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
A teddy bear and flowers left in memory of Cynthia Hoffman sit on the Eklutna River bridge on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Hoffman's body was found in the river June 4, and two teens have been arrested and charged with murder in her death. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

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