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News / Clark County News

Bogdanov takes the stand, claims self-defense in death of Nikki Kuhnhausen

The 27-year-old Vancouver resident is charged with second-degree murder in the death of the transgender teen

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: August 24, 2021, 3:46pm
3 Photos
David Bogdanov gives emotional testimony as he takes the stand to assert his claim of self-defense in the death of 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen at the Clark County Courthouse Tuesday morning. He is facing charges of second-degree murder and malicious harassment.
David Bogdanov gives emotional testimony as he takes the stand to assert his claim of self-defense in the death of 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen at the Clark County Courthouse Tuesday morning. He is facing charges of second-degree murder and malicious harassment. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

David Bogdanov testified Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court that he strangled 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen in 2019 while trying to keep her from reaching a loaded gun he had near the driver’s seat of his car.

Bogdanov, 27, took the stand as the only witness in his defense Tuesday. He is charged with second-degree murder and malicious harassment. Prosecutors said he killed Kuhnhausen after he learned she was transgender and then dumped her body down a hillside on Larch Mountain.

The trial began last week, and prosecutors rested their case Monday. Closing statements will begin Wednesday morning.

Bogdanov described meeting Kuhnhausen in the early morning hours of June 6 after he’d been out drinking with his brothers. He said he saw Kuhnhausen walking alone and that he got out of his brother’s van to see if she was OK or if she needed a ride.

They talked for a few minutes, and he gave her his Snapchat username, he said. They made plans for him to pick her up a few hours later.

Bogdanov’s brother drove him and Kuhnhausen to Bogdanov’s other brother’s house to get Bogdanov’s car, an Audi A8 L, he testified.

Bogdanov and Kuhnhausen began hooking up in the back seat of his car when Bogdanov found out Kuhnhausen was transgender. He became tearful when describing sexual contact between the two of them.

He said he pushed Kuhnhausen away from him and cursed at her to get out of his car. Bogdanov said he was “humiliated” once he found out he was having sexual contact with someone who was born male. He said he would’ve been shunned if his family found out.

Bogdanov testified that Kuhnhausen started fighting against him after he pushed her into the passenger door of the car and said that Kuhnhausen reached toward the front seat, where he had tucked his gun.

He described attempting to pull her back away from the gun, which he said he always kept loaded. He said he’d told Kuhnhausen he carried a gun, “so she wouldn’t freak out,” and that he had a concealed carry permit for it. He described fearing for his life if she got her hands on the weapon.

Bogdanov said Kuhnhausen struggled, elbowing him and trying to claw at his face. He said he couldn’t get a good grip on the jacket she was wearing, which he’d loaned to her, so he wrapped a phone charger around her shoulder area. During the struggle, the cord slipped up around her neck, he said.

Once she stopped moving, he said, he released the charger. He thought Kuhnhausen had passed out, he said.

Bogdanov said that once Kuhnhausen stopped moving and he let go of the cord, he grabbed the gun and put it in the trunk of his car. He then came back to check on Kuhnhausen, and she still hadn’t regained consciousness. He said he tried to check for a pulse, and she wasn’t breathing.

He told the jury he feared that if he called the police they wouldn’t believe him because he’d been drinking. He said he’d been out all night and that there were drugs in the car, which he said were Kuhnhausen’s.

He said he was “panicked” and “scared” and decided he needed to get rid of Kuhnhausen’s body. He said he didn’t mean to kill Kuhnhausen — that he wanted her out of his car and wanted to stop her from grabbing his gun.

Bogdanov said he’s been shooting at Larch Mountain before. He drove there and pushed Kuhnhausen out of the car, down a steep hillside, he testified.

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Later that day, Bogdanov booked a one-way flight to Kiev, Ukraine. He said he was an “emotional wreck” and needed to get away. He stayed in Ukraine for about six weeks before returning to the U.S.

Bogdanov also testified that he called a friend to “get rid” of his car. He said he doesn’t know where the car is and that he no longer has the gun.

Bogdanov said Kuhnhausen didn’t attempt to get out of the car when he began shouting at her. Yet, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes asked Bogdanov if she’d be able to try to get out of the car once he was strangling her.

Hayes also noted their differences in size, with Bogdanov standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing about 200 pounds. Others testified last week that Kuhnhausen was 5 feet, 8 inches tall and about 110 pounds.

Hayes asked Bogdanov about interviews with police, in which he never told them anything about self-defense or any violence with Kuhnhausen. Bogdanov acknowledged he also didn’t tell police about dumping Kuhnhausen’s body or that Kuhnhausen had been using drugs in his car like he claimed on Tuesday.