A 20-year prison sentence was handed down to the perpetrator of the violent murder of 17-year-old transgender teenager Nikki Kuhnhausen in 2019. In handing down the maximum penalty for second degree murder and malicious harassment, Clark County superior court judge David Gregerson said he was “struck by the darkness in this case”.

Warning: This story has details of violence against a trans person and might be distressing to some readers. 

Twenty-seven-year-old David Bogdanov had contacted Kuhnhausen though Snapchat and the pair had arranged to meet up for a “sexual encounter”. Bogdanov later went on to claim in police interviews to being “really, really, disturbed” when he learned Kuhnhausen was trans.

Body Found After Six Months

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Bogdanov who was 25 at the time, claimed that Kuhnhausen had reached for her gun, forcing him to a wrap a phone charger around her shoulders to pull her away. During the scuffle, Bogdanov claimed the charger had slipped up around her neck.

After being reported missing on June 6, 2019, Kuhnhausen’s remains were found in a woodland six months later by a hiker in Oregon following an exhaustive search undertaken by members of the violence prevention group National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation and authorities.  This discovery  led  to Bogdanov being arrested a few days later.

According to trial testimony, after dumping of Kuhnhausen body down a hillside, Bogdanov booked a one-way flight to Ukraine. He called a friend to “get rid” of his car in the interim. Six weeks later, Bogdanov returned to America.

‘She Was Just A Teenager’

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“Everyone in this courtroom has been 17 at some point in their lives,” Gregerson said during Thursday’s sentencing hearing, “[Kuhnhausen] could’ve been anyone’s son or daughter.”

“Her life ended in a particularly cruel spasm of violence on June 6, 2019, and it was followed by the most undignified form of final disposition of her body, then by repeated lies and obfuscation.”

Clutching a teddy bear she had given to her daughter one Valentine’s Day, a distraught Lisa Woods addressed the media outside the courtroom. “You know she was just a baby; she was just a teenager, and he took her life, and you know, he got the maximum and that’s what he deserves,” said Woods.

Last year, Woods had worked alongside local activists and Washington state legislators to have the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act signed into law – preventing defendants from claiming “diminished capacity” upon learning of a victim’s gender identity. The Act which came into effect in June 2020, saw Washington become only the 10th US state to pass such a law.

Because of this, Bogdanov’s attorneys were unable to claim the “trans panic” defence. However, they have maintained he was acting in self-defence and said that they would be appealing both the conviction and sentencing.

‘Justice For Trans People Lost To Violence’

Speaking at a  vigil  held for Kuhnhausen last Thursday at  Vancouver’s Esther Short Park, Devon Davis Williamson, a supporter of Kuhnhausen’s family said of the trial that, “It has taken a lot of hands, voices, power, to get us to this moment. Nikki’s story is a story that’s similar to hundreds of other stories of trans people… Usually, no one is caught, no one is charged, no one is convicted.”

“While this moment is about justice for Nikki and her family, it’s also about the moms, dads, friends, siblings, neighbours, of all of the trans people lost to violence who have never had someone charged or convicted in those crimes,” Williamson added.

The vigil was attended by close to a hundred people, with many echoing their relief now that justice for Nikki Kuhnhausen has finally been served.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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