What happened to CeeCee? A daughter's disappearance, her murder, and a father's quest for answers

Published: Jun. 5, 2019 at 7:42 PM AKDT
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BREAKING: From self-professed victim to murder suspect. The 18-year-old woman who claimed she acted as an accomplice out of fear for her own life during the murder of Cynthia Hoffman, is, as of Friday evening, under arrest -- charged with first degree murder and tampering with evidence, according to the Anchorage Correctional Complex and the Anchorage Police Department. Denali Brehmer, 18, now joins Kayden McIntosh, 16, accused of taking the life of a young woman she claimed was a friend.


When 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman dropped out of sight last weekend, her family knew something had to be wrong. She didn't call; she didn't come home -- both extremely out of character for the Hoffman family's third oldest daughter.

"In this family, you all have phones. When dad calls, you answer. I don't care if you're at church and the holy pastor is preaching. I don't care if you're at school taking the high school diploma test. If dad calls, you answer," Timothy Hoffman Sr., told KTUU Wednesday, less than a day after learning his daughter was murdered.

Known as CeeCee to friends and family, Cynthia Hoffman comes from a large, blended family, a mix of brothers and sisters and other family members' children, all making life work in an East Anchorage trailer. Hoffman, a lean man with glasses who works as a handyman, walks and speaks with intent.

A dozen friends and family members surrounded him in the family's living room as a cockatiel squawked, and dishes clanked in the background.

They'd assembled to support each other, and share stories of a happy teen with an eye for boys, who thought soda and energy drinks were rebel indulgences, and who always wanted to make her father proud.

CeeCee wasn't great at academics, her father said. A learning disability prevented her from excelling at book work. But she stuck with school and successfully graduated in 2018 from Service High. On job sites, she was, Hoffman said, a great "right-hand man." She and her sisters had learned their father's trade, able to measure windows, churn concrete, work hard.

Over the weekend, they'd helped prep a camper for an outing, and their reward was a little bit of cash and a trip to the mall, Hoffman said. CeeCee was supposed to meet up with her sister to get her portion of the money, told her dad she was on her way, but never showed. Hours went by. Then a day.

"I put out search parties. I drove my motorcycle through woods and bike paths. I floored it all over town doing speed limits I should not have been doing looking for my kid," Hoffman said.

He'd called the police and local news stations.

The more time passed, the harder it was for Hoffman to ignore his gut instinct.

"When she didn't come home the first day, I knew something was wrong. When she didn't come home the second day, I knew something was wrong. And then all I could think about was the knock on the door," he said.

That knock came around dinner time Tuesday night. Officers went to the family home and asked to speak with Hoffman privately.

"I just looked at them and said, 'She's dead. isn't she?' And they said 'Yes, '" Hoffman said.

After reporting his daughter missing, Hoffman had grown frustrated with the investigation. He felt police didn't take her learning disability seriously, that they didn't understand her vulnerability.

Anchorage Police spokesman MJ Thim told KTUU that information hadn't been included in the original reports. If it had, Hoffman would have been classified as endangered, he said, prompting a Nixle report to inform the public to be on the lookout. Still, it may not have saved her life. According to the timeline of events, Hoffman was likely dead by the time the first report came in.

Now, police and Hoffman are working to comprehend the events that led a 16-year-old boy to confess to using duct tape to restrain Hoffman, shooting her in the head, and pushing her -- possibly still alive -- into the river near Thunderbird Falls.

Police have arrested homeless teen Kayden McIntosh, 16, and charged him with murder and evidence tampering. A mutual friend, Denali Brehmer, was also present and supplied the gun, according to the affidavit of a homicide detective assigned to the case.

Brehmer is known to the Hoffmans as "Angela," and had texted with CeeCee's father after CeeCee's disappearance.

"Angela" told Hoffman that his daughter demanded to be dropped off at a nearby park, a request "Angela" said she honored.

Sunday, as the family grew increasingly worried, Hoffman showed a text thread on his phone between a contact named "Angela" and himself.

"Angela" writes to him over a series of messages:

"Is she okay?" "I hope she comes home safely she's my best friend" "I'm starting to get worried"

Then, "Angela" texts about boys she doesn't trust:

"I don't trust what she said about that guy.... I love her too I want the best for her and want her to come back" "She won't answer me" "I think she's ignoring everyone"

Reading the messages Wednesday, Hoffman said it was all a diversion.

Perhaps the most painful of the lies was this one:

"I know she will come home safe"

According to Anchorage homicide detective Brendan Lee, Brehmer told police the trio was "smoking weed in the Valley" on Sunday. On the way back to Anchorage they stopped at a parking lot near Thunderbird Falls.

In his affidavit, Lee said Brehmer's version of events was that "the three of them agreed to duct tape each other and take photographs. CeeCee was bound by her ankles and wrists with duct tape. She also had grey duct tape placed over her mouth. However, CeeCee started to panic. They removed the duct tape from CeeCee's mouth and hands. CeeCee began to tell them she was going to call the police and tell them they had kidnapped her and sexually assaulted her."

As this was happening, Brehmer held a Keltec 9mm gun in her hand, which McIntosh took from her.

In a separate interview with McIntosh, Lee said McIntosh recalled "CeeCee started panicking and threatening to call the police on them. He stated he 'blacked out', but that he remembers shooting CeeCee and pushing her into the river."

Brehmer and McIntosh agreed to text CeeCee's family and say she'd been dropped off at a park. Then, at another park burned the gun, CeeCee's purse, clothing and ID. Hoffman's body was found Tuesday evening.

McIntosh is accused of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. Brehmer, whom police said feared McIntosh, is not charged with any crimes.

Hoffman is upset at the suggestion his daughter had been smoking marijuana. If she had, it would have been out of character, he said. And he felt that when police heard about the supposed partying, they seemed less concerned about treating her disappearance as foul play.

Anchorage Police Spokesperson MJ Thim told KTUU the department continued to work the case, including chasing down those initial false leads, until Hoffman was found.

Now, her father is trying to hold the family together, steering his wife and children, many of whom are disabled, through the grief.

He's convinced she was not a willing participant, and that it's more likely she was abducted, lured by friendship into a dangerous situation she would never have voluntarily agreed to go along with. Police say what was consensual and what wasn't remains unclear.

As the details emerge of the events leading up to CeeCee's final moments, Hoffman's heartache deepens.

"For my daughter to go through what she has gone through, the only thing I can imagine is that she was yelling her daddy's name. And it goes through my head over and over and over again. And there's nothing I can do about it," he said.

Hoffman made sure he showed up in court for McIntosh's arraignment Wednesday. He shared his story and urged the judge to deny bail.

As the judge explained McIntosh's right to bail, and the upcoming court dates, Hoffman, who'd until then remained composed, let the words of a devastated father slip out: "I hope he goes straight to hell."

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