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Washington Man Convicted of Murder, Hate Crime in Trans Teen's Death

Nikki Kuhnhausen
National Women's Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation

David Bogadanov, found guilty in the death of Nikki Kuhnhausen, became outraged after discovering she was trans.

David Bogdanov has been convicted of second-degree murder and malicious harassment -- a hate crime -- in the death of Vancouver, Wash., transgender teen Nikki Kuhnhausen.

A jury in Clark County Superior Court in Vancouver announced the verdicts Friday, The Columbian reports. Bogdanov, a 27-year-old Vancouver man, will be sentenced September 9. The potential sentence ranges from 11 years to 19 years and six months.

Kuhnhausen, 17, went missing in June 2019, and her remains were found the following December near Larch Mountain in Washington State. Bogdanov was arrested a few days later. Kuhnhausen had been strangled to death.

Prosecutors said Bogdanov killed Kuhnhausen because he discovered she was trans after they'd had sexual contact. He claimed self-defense, saying that she had reached for a gun and that he had used the cord of a phone charger in an attempt to pull her away, but it slipped from her shoulder to her neck.

The prosecution cast doubt on the self-defense story. Bogdanov had lied to police several times and had never raised the issue of self-defense before the trial, prosecutors said. But his attorneys said he hadn't brought it up earlier because he didn't want his family to know he'd had sex with a trans person.

Activists said that amounted to a "trans panic" defense, which has been outlawed in Washington, and that it was inappropriate for Bogdanov and his team to use it. But they expressed relief at the verdict.

"The long buildup to this trial, and the defense's attempts to somehow paint Nikki, who was a 17-year-old girl, as being 'responsible' for the defendant's violent actions, were excruciating for us, and particularly for Nikki's mother Lisa," the group Justice for Nikki posted on Facebook. "There's no excuse for what happened to Nikki. This hate crime wounded our community."

Justice for Nikki task force member Devon Davis Williamson told The Columbian that the hate-crime conviction was unexpected but welcome. "We were confident going in that David Bogdanov would be convicted of at least the murder charge. We're also aware of the culture of Clark County and were unsure about the hate crime, despite all of the evidence. It's a win; it's a really big win," he said.

But he also noted that while "we have found some justice for Nikki ... we have a long, long way to go" in terms of trans acceptance.

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