Teen charged with murder after 19-year-old woman found dead near Thunderbird Falls trail
UPDATE (4 p.m. June 8): The 18-year-old woman who police believe supplied the gun was arrested on June 8 and charged with murder Her name is Denali Brehmer.
Editor’s note: This story contains graphic accounts of violence that may be disturbing to some readers.
A 16-year-old Anchorage boy was arrested and charged with murder Tuesday for allegedly killing a woman near the Thunderbird Falls Trail on Sunday.
According to the Anchorage Police Department, Kayden McIntosh faces charges of first-degree murder and evidence tampering in the shooting death of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman. Hoffman was reported missing Monday morning by a family member who said a friend told them Hoffman was last seen at Polar Bear Park in Anchorage.
Through their investigation, police learned that was not the case.
“The preliminary investigation found that the victim, her friend (an adult female) and a juvenile male went to Thunderbird Falls trail on 6/2/19,” police wrote in an online synopsis of the case. “The three walked down to the river bank where the victim was bound with duct tape by the female and male. At some point, an altercation took place. The male shot the victim in the back of the head, pushed her into the river and fled with the female.”
Police said McIntosh and the unidentified woman went to Polar Bear Park in the Russian Jack neighborhood, where they sent text messages to Hoffman’s family. The duo then allegedly went to Lions Park in Mountain View, where they burned Hoffman’s belongings.
According to police, the story began to unravel when a family member of the adult woman told police Hoffman may have been pushed into the water. On Tuesday, McIntosh and the woman were found and questioned, at which point police say they learned the real story. After detectives questioned the pair, officers were sent to the Thunderbird Falls trail, where police said Hoffman’s body was found in the river near where she was killed.
On Wednesday, APD spokesman MJ Thim said the murder took place down the steep embankment behind the trailhead parking lot.
McIntosh was arraigned in Anchorage court on Wednesday, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Charging documents outline what police believe was a grim series of events.
According to charges filed by APD Det. Brendan Lee, on Tuesday both the woman and Lee gave police similar accounts saying the three “were smoking weed in the Valley” when they drove toward Anchorage, stopping at the Thunderbird Falls trailhead, where they went into the woods.
While there, the three allegedly agreed to duct tape each other and take pictures. After being bound by her wrists, ankles and mouth, Hoffman started to panic, the couple told police. Both McIntosh and the woman allegedly told police Hoffman threatened to call police, at which point McIntosh took the KELTEC 9 mm handgun the woman was holding and shot Hoffman in the back of the head before pushing her into the water.
McIntosh allegedly told detectives he “blacked out,” but remembers committing the homicide.
After the killing, McIntosh and the woman allegedly sent the fake texts to Hoffman’s sister before driving to Mountain View to burn her belongings.
A quiet place
There was no indication a murder had taken place near the milelong trail on Wednesday. The popular, gently sloping path into Chugach State Park is a half-hour drive north from downtown Anchorage and runs between the Eklutna River and the Thunderbird Heights neighborhood. The wide dirt trail crosses through forest and skirts high cliffs above the river and ends at Thunderbird Falls, where Thunderbird Creek comes rushing out of the Chugach Mountains.
The embankment behind the restrooms where the three people entered the woods and the crimes allegedly took place is steep and leads to about 50 yards of thick forest cut by a casual trail. It’s off the main trail and hikers are discouraged from going there. A narrow path leads to the fast-moving, silty gray river. It’s only accessible by climbing down a steep embankment.
Thunderbird Heights resident Steve Babyak said he noticed a large police presence near the trailhead when he and his family returned from camping Tuesday evening.
“There was a cop on the bridge here and there were two cops driving up and down the road,” he said.
The homicide is the first in the Chugiak-Eagle River area since March of 2016, when Marcus Cosby Jr., 24, was found dead of gunshot wounds outside an Eagle River apartment complex.
Baybyak said his quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the municipality is usually quiet and crime free.
“The only other thing that happened out here since we were out here was somebody towed a burned out vehicle out from Anchorage,” he said.
On a sunny late Wednesday morning, the trailhead parking lot was full and there was no sign anything criminal had taken place. At the falls about a mile upstream of the alleged murder scene, dozens of elementary school-age day campers ate their lunch alongside the river as small groups of hikers took turns taking selfies with the scenic falls as a backdrop.
Police say this was the 16th homicide this year in the Municipality of Anchorage, but the crime is uncommon in Chugiak-Eagle River. The area’s last known homicide occurred in 2016, when Marcus Cosby Jr., 24, was found dead of gunshot wounds outside the Wood River Apartments on Centerfield Drive. No one has been arrested in the case.
Police have investigated five killings as homicides in the Chugiak-Eagle River area since 2013, including three women who were allegedly killed by men they knew, the unsolved killing of Cosby and the possible murder of a 32-year-old man.
In September of 2014, 19-year-old Linda Anne Martz Bower was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend, David Joseph Thomas, 28. Thomas was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 75 years in prison with 25 years suspended.
In December 2013, Andrew Conn, 32, was found dead at his home on Mountain Vista Drive in Eagle River. No one was arrested in that case and police later said it was considered suspicious and not necessarily a homicide.
In October 2013, Nita Kilapsuk, 40, and Michael Hagood, 49, were found dead inside a retired People Mover bus at a lot in Chugiak. Police said Hagood shot Kilapsuk before killing himself.