VANCOUVER, Wash. — 27-year-old David Bogdanov was sentenced in Clark County Court on Thursday morning to 20 and a half years in prison for the murder of transgender teen Nikki Kuhnhausen, whose decomposed remains were found in a wooded area of Washington’s Larch Mountain in December of 2019.
Bogdanov’s attorneys have already filed an appeal after a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder and malicious harassment on August 27th.
Closing arguments were presented on August 25th following a week-long trial. The judge gave final instructions to jurors before sequestering them into deliberations. The court reconvened a day later and a note was presented to the judge. A juror told the judge they were unable to make a decision based on the facts. The judge restated their instructions and sent jurors back into deliberations.
During opening statements last week, the prosecution explained to the jury that they would see that Bogdanov strangled the 17-year-old Kuhnhausen with a phone cord and her own hair.
On the sixth day of the trial, Bogdanov took the stand in his own defense believing he could be his own best advocate. He cried through most of his testimony. He shared that he didn’t understand the gay lifestyle and it disgusted him. If he knew that Nikki was a man, he would’ve never hooked up with her because he didn’t want to face the humiliation.
Bogdanov had a concealed weapons permit and always carried a loaded handgun. He said he set the gun between the console and the driver’s seat when he took Nikki along to pick-up his Audi at his brother’s house. He found her in the back seat of his car using a meth pipe. They started kissing and became intimate. When David felt Nikki’s crotch, he says he knew right away she was transgender. He tried to push her away. According to him, she started scratching and clawing at his face and eyes.
“All I wanted her to do was get out of the car. I was afraid she would grab the gun. I freaked out pushing her back saying, you didn’t tell me you were a dude. It was disgusting,” Bogdanov testified.
He continued that when he tried to restrain Nikki, he couldn’t get a good grip on her jacket, so he reached for a phone charger cable in the pocket behind the passenger seat. He first had it around her chest and arms. It moved up to her neck according to him because she was fighting so hard. Once she passed out, he was scared and didn’t know what to do.
“I never intended to hurt her. I believed she would kill me.”
Bogdanov drove to Larch Mountain where would target shoot. He dumped her body there with the phone charger cable.
He purchased an impromptu one-way ticket to the Ukraine and returned six months later thinking he was in the clear. His cell phone records put him at the scene on the night Nikki was killed.
During closing arguments, the prosecution recapped the timeline of when the two met, when Kuhnhausen was killed and evidence from when her body was found. They say Bogdanov’s actions and words show he intended to strangle Nikki, which takes a lot of force and anger. Kuhnhausen’s mom Lisa Woods wiped away tears as prosecutors described the intensity. Bogdanov’s second interview with police was played for the jury to show inconsistencies and that his story kept changing. The prosecution says David showed bias and hatred for who Nikki was. They rested their case stating that the murder was not about self defense or fear. It was about rage and preserving David’s reputation.
“This was an act of rage, not an act of self-defense. The defendant’s version of how it happened is not consistent with the evidence. Nikki died because he found out she was transgender and he couldn’t handle the idea that he had been attracted to someone who was trans. His fear wasn’t that she would hurt him… his fear was someone would find out. And he did what he needed to do to make sure that didn’t happen,” the prosecution stated.
The defense asked the jury to consider how Bogdanov felt, stating he was dealing with a combative person he just met, who was high and reached for his gun. They say Kuhnhausen got her hands on the gun and dropped it on one of the front seats. He had to have felt a sense of danger and that’s why he reacted as he did. The defense stated that there was no time to consider Nikki’s height, weight and strength and that he wouldn’t be here today if he had thought too much about that. They say he desperately wanted her out of the car even more so as she scratched at his eyes and face.
The defense questioned the credibility of witnesses called by the prosecution; a doctor who couldn’t keep the meaning of foreign words straight, and the testimony of one of Nikki’s friends who has multiple drug convictions in Oregon and Washington.
“To David Bogdanov, at 6am on June 6th, that smoking meth, not who I thought you were, transgender biological male, I didn’t sign up for this. Not leaving my car. This person is being combative, this person is being assaultive, this person is reaching for my gun. All the facts and circumstances as they appeared to Mr. Bogdanov, that’s self-defense,” stated his defense attorney.
The case was tried as a hate crime. The Nikki Kuhnhausen Act that prevents a criminal defense based on discovery of a victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee in March of 2020.