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News / Clark County News

From the Newsroom: Vancouver’s vortex of infamy

By Craig Brown, Columbian Editor
Published: December 18, 2021, 6:05am

I don’t watch those “true crime” shows on television, but I might make an exception tonight. Apparently, CBS’s “48 Hours” episode will be devoted to the story of Nikki Kuhnhausen, a local 17-year-old who was murdered in June 2019. The show airs at 10 p.m. on KOIN-TV.

The details of the case are salacious. She met a 25-year-old man, David Bogdanov, in downtown Vancouver and the two proceeded to have a sexual encounter in the back seat of his car. When Bogdanov discovered Kuhnhausen was transgender, he strangled her and dumped her body on Larch Mountain.

At trial earlier this year, Bogdanov’s attorney argued that his client killed Kuhnhausen in self-defense. Bogdanov testified that when he discovered Kuhnhausen had been born male, he pushed her away and yelled at her to get out of his car. He said she lunged for a loaded gun he had near the driver’s seat.

The jury didn’t buy it, and Bogdanov was sentenced to 19½ years in prison. In 2020, the Legislature passed a bill, the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act, to prevent future defendants in similar cases from asserting a panic defense or arguing they were suffering from diminished mental capacity.

Sounds like a TV show, right? I knew the episode was coming, because the producers contacted us several months ago to license some of our photos.

We were talking in the newsroom the other day about local cases that seem to end up in the national spotlight as news or entertainment programs, or both. Our conversation was prompted by the news that John Bishop, the charismatic founding pastor of Living Hope Church, had been released from federal prison after serving a sentence for smuggling marijuana. We wrote a six-part series, there was a long article about it in Vanity Fair, and supposedly a movie is in the works.

For those who have forgotten, here are some other Columbian true crime stories you may have seen on TV:

  • In August 2018, a 16-year-old girl was pushed from the Moulton Falls Bridge into the East Fork Lewis River in a social media video that was seen by millions around the world. The teen who did the pushing was interviewed on national television.
  • In August 2010, a 28-year-old local deli clerk suffered severe, disfiguring burns. She told Vancouver police she was near Esther Short Park when a Black woman she didn’t know suddenly threw acid on her. The story made the national news, but it didn’t hold up to investigation. She later admitted that she had applied caustic drain cleaner to her face. She pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor, and due to her previous mental health struggles was ordered to undergo counseling and treatment. Apparently, this was adopted into an episode of the crime drama “Law & Order.”
  • In June 2000, an adult woman posing as a homeless teenager graduated from Evergreen High School. She fabricated her age and stories of abuse and received thousands of dollars in public assistance, a crime that sent her to prison. She also managed to get a man jailed for child rape; his conviction was expunged when it was revealed she was 28 years old at the time they had sex. The story is two decades old, but I got an inquiry this fall from a British producer asking if we had any film to license (we didn’t.)
  • Finally, Monica Lewinsky was in the news here for pretty much the same behavior that made her a household name during the Clinton Administration. Before becoming an infamous White House intern, she was a student at Lewis and Clark College in Portland. While there, she was friends with a local couple, and would babysit for them. When it was later revealed that she had an ongoing sexual relationship with the husband, the “60 Minutes” crew was quickly at the front door of the Vancouver school where he worked.

I could list more examples, but I am out of space. I’ll always wonder: Is every town like this, or is there some sort of Vancouver infamy vortex?