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Alaskan teenager convinced by online fraudster to murder mentally ill girl for $9 million
An Alaskan teenager has been charged with conspiring to murder her friend after a man she met online offered her $9 million (£7m) to commit the crime. Denali Brehmer, 18, struck up a friendship with a man she believed to be “Tyler”, a wealthy businessman from Kansas. The man was in fact 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller of Indiana. The pair spoke online about a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska, sending Schilmiller videos and photos of the act in exchange for the money. Brehmer then recruited a group of friends, and they chose their victim – Cynthia Hoffman, 19, described as one of Brehmer’s best friends, who her father said had a learning disability and the mental age of a 12 year-old. Police said the teenagers agreed to help carry out the murder and in exchange, “all of them would receive a significant sum of money for their part in the planning and/or execution of the murder.” Tim Hoffman, father of Cynthia Hoffman, in court on June 18 On June 2 Hoffman was lured to a hiking trail, Thunderbird Falls, northeast of Anchorage, where she was bound with duct tape and shot once in the back of the head by Brehmer’s accomplice Kayden McIntosh, a homeless 16-year-old boy. Hoffman’s body was then pushed into a river. “I put out search parties,” said Hoffman’s father Tim. He sent Brehmer a text message asking where his daughter was, and Brehmer replied that she would be home soon. “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,” he said. “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.” Hoffman’s body was discovered near the waterfall two days later. Authorities say Brehmer communicated with Schilmiller throughout the murder, sending him "Snapchat photographs and videos of Hoffman tied up and of the body afterward." Both Brehmer and McIntosh have been arrested and charged in relation to the murder. Kayden McIntosh, 16, in court in Alaska on June 18 "I know what I did was wrong. I know I could have probably done something different," said Brehmer, during her arraignment. Schilmiller has also been arrested along with three others accused of assisting in the planning or execution of the killing. All six have pleaded not guilty. Schilmiller and Brehmer were also indicted on Tuesday on federal child pornography and child exploitation charges. Police said that a search on Brehmer's phone during their investigation into Hoffman's death revealed that the teen - at Schilmiller's direction - had produced videos depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a minor and sent them to Schilmiller. Court documents say Schilmiller admitted to attempting to blackmail Brehmer after the murder into sexually assaulting young girls. Both face up to life in prison on the child pornography charges. They also face up to 99 years in prison for each of the murder charges, the conspiracy to commit murder charge, and the solicitation to commit murder charge. "All I know is my daughter didn't deserve all this,” said Mr Hoffman. “She should have the friends that she wanted. "I have one thing in my mind right now. And that's to send all six of them to Hell. "And I ain't gonna rest until it's done. And then after it's done I'll show my emotions." Bryan Schroder, US attorney for Alaska, advised parents to keep an eye on how their children were using the internet. “For all of the good the internet can do, it can be a dark place and parents would be wise to monitor the activity of their children online.”
Wed, 19 Jun 2019 13:33:58 -0400
The Latest: Putin: US attack on Iran would be catastrophic
Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning the U.S. against using force on Iran, saying it would have catastrophic consequences. Tensions have been building up recently over last week's attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, assaults that Washington has blamed on Iran. Iran has denied the accusations.
Thu, 20 Jun 2019 08:57:48 -0400
As U.S. Boosts Pressure, Iran Tests Trump's Appetite for a Fight
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s campaign vow to get the U.S. out of costly foreign entanglements is colliding with the messy reality of America’s commitments in the Middle East, where tensions are rising between Washington and Tehran after attacks on two tankers last week.The dilemma emerged again as the administration ordered another 1,000 troops to the region on Monday in response to what Trump officials say was Iran’s role in the latest strikes. The Tehran government has rejected those accusations.So far the international response to the U.S. charges has been muted. With the rhetoric on both the American and Iranian sides rising, the relatively small deployment announced Monday appears calibrated to show the U.S. will push back on what it sees as Iran’s bad behavior without changing the balance of American power in the region.“Trump is very determined to avoid getting dragged into a military conflict if he can avoid it,” said Gary Samore, a former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction in the Obama administration.The president seemed to reinforce that impression in a Time magazine interview published late Monday. “So far, it’s been very minor,” he said of the attacks. Asked if he was considering a military confrontation, he told Time, “I wouldn’t say that. I can’t say that at all.”A Navy explosives expert who briefed reporters on the attacks at the Pentagon on Monday said the mines attached to a Japanese tanker were above the water line, which may indicate the attackers meant to damage the ship but not destroy it. A Pentagon spokesman later said the expert wasn’t part of the U.S.’s official investigation into the attacks.Analysts say that the broader Trump approach to foreign policy -- exerting maximum pressure on adversaries to force concessions -- raises the risk of an unintended conflict and has yet to pay off. From Tehran to Caracas to Pyongyang, U.S. efforts to force hostile regimes to back down have met stubborn resistance, despite threats or demands from officials including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.Read More: Pentagon Shares New Photos, Timeline of Gulf Oil Tanker AttacksBefore Bolton joined the Trump administration last year, he publicly advocated war with Iran to eliminate its nuclear program. And it was Pompeo who last year announced a lengthy list of demands Iran had to meet to enter talks with the U.S., only to have the president say he just wished officials in Tehran would call him to work things out.“If it was up to others like Bolton and Pompeo, they would advocate more aggressive action but I don’t see any sign Trump is spoiling for a fight,” Samore said.The mixed messages and a general distrust of American motives have fueled doubts about U.S. intentions toward Iran, even among allies. The situation has been exacerbated, analysts say, by Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and his administration’s general skepticism of alliances and multilateral institutions.“Unfortunately, our great comparative advantage as a nation — building and working with alliances — has eroded, particularly with respect to Iran,” Brett McGurk, Trump’s former envoy to the global coalition to combat the Islamic State, wrote in a tweet June 14. “Key western allies warned of this very circumstance and sequence of events when the US began its maximum pressure campaign a year ago.”Trump may be even less willing to consider military force this week given he will symbolically kick off his re-election campaign on Tuesday in Florida. Though he campaigned in 2016 on promises to get out of overseas conflicts, Trump has struggled to draw down troops in Syria and Afghanistan, and now is in the position of sending more forces to the Middle East as he tries to convince voters he deserves another four years in office.Sensing inconsistencies in Trump’s strategy, leaders in Tehran may even be trying to call the president’s bluff.Limited OptionsIranian officials have indicated the country may stop abiding by some elements of the 2015 nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in days, a move experts argue is a carefully calibrated bid to exert new pressure for sanctions relief on European nations that have urged Iran to remain in the deal.Short of war, options for additional U.S. pressure include stepping up military escorts for tankers in the Gulf region or striking boats or facilities belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. has said was involved in the latest attacks.Air Force General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs, said Tuesday in Washington that the U.S. has communicated a message to Iran of “hands off -- don’t come after our forces” in public statements as well as through Iraqi and Swiss intermediaries.If Iran “comes after U.S. citizens, U.S. assets or the U.S. military we reserve the right to respond with military action -- and they need to know that,” Silva, the No. 2 U.S. military official, said at a breakfast with defense reporters.Selva, who’s retiring next month, said tanker escorts like those the U.S. organized in the 1980s, would be “ill-advised” unless the “international community” fully participates.‘Lot of Hysteria’“There’s a lot of hysteria that holding Iran accountable has to be justified as a prelude to war,” said Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “We’re already in the midst of a low-intensity conflict that has managed to regulate itself.”Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump supporter, told reporters on Tuesday that “nobody’s talking about an Iraq War, but we are talking about a military response on the the table that would cripple their ability” to disrupt oil flow and about “destroying their ability to refine oil.”Yet others among Trump’s allies, such as Republican Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, caution that the U.S. and Iran must not edge closer to conflict.McCaul said that American forces in the region are in a “defensive posture” to protect transit through the Straits of Hormuz and he warned that military action against Iran would be “very, very complicated.”“I don’t think anyone has the appetite for war, although we do have military plans, obviously, contingency plans, in the event that is to happen,” McCaul said on Bloomberg Television. “I would caution that Iran is about the size of Iraq and Afghanistan combined and it would be very, very complicated."(Updates with Senator Graham in second paragraph after ‘Lot of Hystery’ subheadline.)\--With assistance from Margaret Talev, Daniel Flatley and Tony Capaccio.To contact the reporter on this story: Nick Wadhams in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at email@example.com, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Tue, 18 Jun 2019 17:02:49 -0400
Putin promises brighter future as marathon phone-in takes gloomy turn
Russians turned to President Vladimir Putin with fears over squeezed incomes and civil liberties during a four-hour annual phone-in Thursday, but the longtime leader insisted a brighter future was ahead. The marathon event -- to which viewers this year submitted some two million questions online and via telephone -- came with Putin's approval ratings in decline. Putin claimed there was "no proof" of Russia's involvement.
Thu, 20 Jun 2019 10:38:40 -0400
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