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Sept. 24, 2020

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Bail set at $750,000 in death of Vancouver transgender teen

Prosecutors amend charges to add hate-crime offense

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:
3 Photos
David Y. Bogdanov, center, appears for a bail review hearing in connection with the death of Nikki Kuhnhausen in Clark County Superior Court on Thursday morning, Jan. 2, 2020. Judge David Gregerson set $750,000 bail Thursday for the suspect in the slaying of a transgender Vancouver teen.
David Y. Bogdanov, center, appears for a bail review hearing in connection with the death of Nikki Kuhnhausen in Clark County Superior Court on Thursday morning, Jan. 2, 2020. Judge David Gregerson set $750,000 bail Thursday for the suspect in the slaying of a transgender Vancouver teen. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

“Justice for Nikki!” a large crowd chanted three times outside the Clark County Courthouse after a judge set $750,000 bail Thursday morning for the suspect in the slaying of the transgender Vancouver teen.

David Y. Bogdanov, 25, of Vancouver appeared in Superior Court for a bail review hearing and arraignment about two weeks after prosecutors requested and were granted a no-bail hold in the case. He was arrested Dec. 17 on suspicion of second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen.

In addition to murder, prosecutors have filed a single count of malicious harassment against Bogdanov — now legally called a hate-crime offense in Washington.

The charge was added under its former name — which was changed during the last legislative session — because the crime is suspected to have happened after the law’s refinement, which included adding “gender identity or expression” to the state’s list of protected categories.

Authorities allege Bogdanov strangled Kuhnhausen after learning she was transgender.

He entered not-guilty pleas to the charges Thursday. His trial is scheduled for July 6.

Kuhnhausen disappeared in early June. Her remains were discovered Dec. 7 after someone reported finding a human skull in the woods at Larch Mountain, southeast of Battle Ground.

During Thursday’s hearing, Judge David Gregerson said $750,000 bail was appropriate because, despite the allegations being among the most serious, Bogdanov lacks criminal history.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes had requested a continuation of the no-bail hold or, alternatively, $6 million bail.

Hayes said the allegations show that Bogdanov has a propensity for violence and poses a risk to the community, particularly the LGBTQ community.

Kuhnhausen’s mother, Lisa Woods, also addressed the judge before bail was imposed. Woods said her daughter’s alleged killer does not deserve the chance to be released before trial.

“I want to stress that the LGBTQ community is not safe with this monster on the streets,” Woods said.

During Bogdanov’s first court appearance Dec. 18, a defense attorney said he’d be arguing against the no-bail condition. Since then, advocates for the transgender community have called on Clark County to support Kuhnhausen’s family and attend the bail hearing so that “Nikki’s murder cannot be brushed aside,” according to a post on the Facebook page “Justice For Nikki.”

Hundreds of people attended a Dec. 20 vigil for the teen at Vancouver United Church of Christ in Hazel Dell.

‘Profoundly disappointed’

About a hundred supporters came out Thursday morning, lined up in the rain outside the county courthouse. They were encouraged to wear pink and remain civil. Once the basement courtroom was full, the remaining supporters were sent to another room on the fourth floor to watch Bogdanov’s hearing on live video.

The large group in the basement was quiet during the hearing, but there were several audible gasps when the judge set bail. Outside the courthouse, surrounded by supporters, Kuhnhausen’s family said they were disappointed and saddened by the judge’s decision.

“(Bogdanov) chose to kill her and then not (do) anything about it for six months,” such as confess or provide tips about the location of Kuhnhausen’s body, said Michelle Bart, president and co-founder of the Vancouver-based National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation. “He doesn’t deserve to be out on the street. And the judge was wrong. The judge was wrong in this particular case.”

7 Photos
Lisa Woods hugs her nephew, Jeremiah Anderson, of Vancouver after the bail review hearing for David Y. Bogdanov, suspects in the death of Nikki Kuhnhausen at Clark County Superior Court on Thursday morning, Jan. 2, 2020. Judge David Gregerson set $750,000 bail Thursday for the suspect in the slaying of a transgender Vancouver teen.  (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian)
Community rallies for Nikki Kuhnhausen’s family Photo Gallery

Bart noted that bail was recently set at $2 million in an attempted murder case involving teenage suspects and a 66-year-old victim.

“Nikki Kuhnhausen did not get justice today. And this hurts me, because we spent so much resources looking for her,” Bart said. NWCAVE and others placed thousands of flyers around Clark County and Portland, and campaigned to keep Kuhnhausen’s disappearance in the public’s eye the entire time she was missing.

There is a lack of trust of law enforcement and the judicial process within the trans community, said Devon Rose Davis, a clinical social worker and activist from Portland working with NWCAVE.

No one is charged in more than 50 percent of the cases involving the murder of trans women nationwide, Davis said. According to the FBI’s 2018 Crime in the United States report, the clearance rate — the calculation of cases that end with an arrest or identification of a suspect who can’t be apprehended — for all murders and non-negligent homicides for that year was 62.3 percent.

“It is difficult as a member of the trans community … to take part in a process like this, knowing full well that these things usually do not go in my community’s favor,” she said. “We’re profoundly disappointed.”

To help the family

NWCAVE said in a press release that it is continuing to work alongside Lisa Woods, Kuhnhausen’s mother, as the family moves toward a memorial service. The coalition is also overseeing all fundraising on behalf of the family for the funeral and other expenses.

While everyone’s support has been appreciated, the nonprofit noted that not all Go Fund Me Pages are handled by or have been OK’d by Woods.

All funds should be donated to NWCAVE, with the memo “Justice For Nikki,” and sent to P.O. Box 872494, Vancouver, WA 98687 or online at https://greatnonprofits.org/org/national-womens-coalition-against-violence-exploitation.

Among Kuhnhausen’s supporters Thursday was Jamie Potter, a Portland resident whose own 17-year-old daughter is transgender. The judge’s decision on bail is tragic, he said.

His daughter transitioned at 7 years old. The experience has made him acutely aware of the challenges faced by LGBTQ people and the need to create change.

“Everybody deserves a chance at life. No one would choose to put themselves into this body, into this life. People are born this way, and they deserve the same respect as any of us do,” Potter said.

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