A prosecutor told a Clark County Superior Court jury Tuesday that David Bogdanov strangled 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen with a phone cord after learning the teenager was transgender, dumped her body on Larch Mountain and then fled the country later that night.
In his opening statement, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes walked jurors through the night in June 2019 that Bogdanov and Kuhnhausen met in downtown Vancouver and the events surrounding her death.
Bogdanov, 27, of Vancouver is on trial for second-degree murder and malicious harassment, now legally called a hate-crime offense in Washington. His trial is expected to last up to two weeks.
Vancouver defense attorney Erin McAleer told jurors in his opening statement that Bogdanov did not kill Kuhnhausen out of prejudice, but in order to stop her from attacking or potentially killing him.
Before opening statements, the parties argued over whether Bogdanov can testify that Kuhnhausen used methamphetamine and his past experiences of people behaving violently while under the influence of the drug.
McAleer promised to tell the jury a conclusion to the case that the state lacks.
Hayes noted the differences in Kuhnhausen and Bogdanov’s statures and strength when refuting the claim of self-defense, pointing to the fact that Bogdanov was much taller and heavier than Kuhnhausen.
He said that over the course of the trial, the jury will hear about recorded jail communications in which Bogdanov can be heard using Russian slang that translates to a derogatory term for members of the LGBTQ community.
Hayes said he’s confident the jury will find Bogdanov guilty of murder and malicious harassment for “cutting what was already a short life even shorter.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the state called its first witnesses: Kuhnhausen’s mother, a Clark County sheriff’s deputy who responded to the emergency call when Kuhnhausen’s remains were found and a Vancouver police detective who investigated Kuhnhausen’s disappearance.
Kuhnhausen’s mother, Lisa Woods, described the teenager as one of seven children and a dancer. She said she reported Kuhnhausen missing on June 10 after she stopped responding or reading any of the daily messages from her mother.
Deputy Timothy Gosch was working patrol in the north county area when he responded to a call Dec. 7, 2019, on Larch Mountain, he told the jury. He was led by the caller from Larch Corrections Center, down gravel Department of Natural Resources roads, to a turnout and into a wooded area.
Gosch said he was taken to a skull and a tennis shoe that investigators would later identify as belonging to Kuhnhausen. It would’ve taken about an hour to get to the remote area from downtown Vancouver, the deputy said.
Detective David Jensen read Snapchat messages he’d requested from the social networking app between Kuhnhausen and Bogdanov’s accounts. The messages describe the two planning to meet up around 5 a.m. June 6, 2019, and Bogdanov arriving at the house Kuhnhausen was staying at. The geolocation of his Snapchat account also showed he was there.
The jury listened to recordings of two police interviews with Bogdanov. In them, he described meeting Kuhnhausen on the streets while he was with his two brothers and she was walking alone. He also told police he was “really, really disturbed” after Kuhnhausen told him she was transgender, but he said she got out of his van and walked away.
The state will call witnesses Wednesday morning, including more law enforcement officers on the case and the man who found Kuhnhausen’s remains on the mountainside.