Missing Trans Teen Found Dead in Washington State


Update: David Y. Bogdanov of Vancouver faces a murder allegation in the killing of Nikki Kuhnhausen. Judge Suzan Clark granted the state’s request for no bail in Bogdanov’s case. A hearing to contest the no-bail hold is scheduled for January 2.  

Donations can be made in Nikki’s name to NWCAVE. Funds will be used for funeral costs. 

The body of a 17-year-old transgender girl was found last week in a wooded area on Larch Mountain, a remote part of northeast Clark County in Washington State.

The young woman, Nikki Kuhnhausen, had been missing since June. After a long and devoted search campaign organized by the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation (NWCAVE), authorities arrested 25-year-old David Bogdanov for second-degree murder.

A search warrant for Bogdanov’s Snapchat determined that he and Kuhnhausen had been communicating on the app and planned to meet up on the early morning of June 6, the day she was last seen alive.

Bogdanov confirmed with detectives in an October interview that he and Kuhnhausen did meet that day, but he didn’t kill her.

According to Portland, Ore., TV station KATU, Bogdanov told police that he and Kuhnhausen had a “conflict” in his van after he discovered she was trans. He eventually told the teen to get out of the van, and he alleges that she walked away and he “never saw her after that.”

“We suspect that there was probably some interaction where, and by [Bogdanov’s] own admission, [he] somehow found out during conversation that she was transgender. He stated that was offensive to his culture and he asked her to get out of his van,” said Lieutenant Tom Ryan of the Vancouver, Wash., Police Department Major Crimes Unit.

Cell phone records show that on June 6, Bogdanov’s phone was in the same remote area near Larch Mountain where her body would be found on December 7 by a local resident looking for Christmas decorations.

Kuhnhausen’s mother, Lisa Woods, and stepfather, Vincent Woods, had been searching for the teen since the summer. Authorities offered a reward for information in her disappearance.

Alongside hundreds of volunteers across the country who organized on social media, Lisa and Vincent helped pass out over 2,400 flyers at Pride parades, local Starbucks, and other small businesses, searching for any tips that would lead to Kuhnhausen’s whereabouts.

According to Michelle Bart, president and cofounder of NWCAVE, this wasn’t the first hate crime the young Kuhnhausen had experienced since she started identifying as trans in the sixth grade. 

Last year, the teen was shot six times and miraculously survived. Kuhnhausen was just getting over the emotional trauma of that incident before she died. The bright young woman was popular with many friends, and was especially close to her mother. Kuhnhausen was living with friends at the time of her death, and turned 18 the month after she went missing. She never made it to her high school graduation. 

NWCAVE orchestrated wide-reaching search efforts to help find Kuhnhausen, in collaboration with other anti-violence organizations. While the organization has had numerous LGBTQ cases in the past, none were as young as Kuhnhausen. Bart says NWCAVE will continue to represent the Woods family.

The family members are planning to have their own press conference soon.

“We’re going to make sure there’s justice for Nikki, and that this doesn’t continue happening on our soil here or anywhere else for that matter,” Bart told The Advocate. “She’s not the only one that this has happened to. It’s happening in Clark County … especially in the Portland area, there’s a hate crime almost every week.”

Last year, NWCAVE made national news because of the Tiffany Hill case, a domestic violence case where a woman was shot by her estranged husband while in the same car as her mother and three children. He later turned the gun on himself.

“It just seems like Clark County, all of a sudden, all these cases are sparking [people to say], ‘Oh, my God, that happened here?’ Yes, that happened here,” adds Bart, who is a lesbian. “Hate exists, and we need to eradicate hate. We need to set a precedent that we can’t allow this to continue. They took a beautiful life, and that’s not right.”

Police haven’t confirmed if Bogdanov acted alone or if he had accomplices, though Bart suggests there could be evidence suggesting the latter. New information is continuing to emerge since it’s still an “open” case. 

Bogdanov will make his first appearance in front of a judge on Wednesday morning at the Clark County courthouse. He is being held without bail.

Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project’s free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.


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