David Bogdanov was sentenced Thursday to 19½ years in prison in the murder of Nikki Kuhnhausen, a 17-year-old transgender teenager who went missing in 2019. Her body was later found on Larch Mountain.
In August, a Clark County Superior Court jury found Bogdanov, 27, of Vancouver, guilty of second-degree murder and malicious harassment, now legally called a hate-crime offense in Washington, in Kuhnhausen’s death.
His sentence was at the top of the range for the two crimes — 234 months for second-degree murder and 12 months for malicious harassment to run concurrently.
Before announcing the sentence, Judge David Gregerson became emotional as he spoke about the way Bogdanov strangled Kuhnhausen with a phone charger cord and then dumped her body on Larch Mountain. He said he was “struck by the darkness in this case.”
“Everyone in this courtroom has been 17 at some point in their lives,” Gregerson said. “She could’ve been anyone’s son or daughter.”
Kuhnhausen’s mother, Lisa Woods, asked the judge for the maximum sentence allowed as she held a stuffed animal that Kuhnhausen used to sleep with.
Defense attorney Matthew Hoff requested a low-end sentence of 11 years, noting that Bogdanov had no prior criminal history. Bogdanov claimed self-defense during the trial.
He testified that when he pushed Kuhnhausen away and yelled at her to get out of his car, she lunged for a loaded gun he had near the driver’s seat. Bogdanov said he wrapped a phone charger around her shoulders to pull her away, but the cord slipped up around her neck.
After Kuhnhausen’s death, Bogdanov dumped her body down the hillside of Larch Mountain, booked a one-way flight to Ukraine and called a friend to “get rid” of his car, according to trial testimony. He returned to the U.S. about six weeks later.
Hoff told the judge they’ve already filed paperwork to appeal the conviction and sentence.
The prosecution argued throughout the trial that Bogdanov strangled Kuhnhausen because she was transgender. On Thursday, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes said Bogdanov has yet to take accountability for killing Kuhnhausen and has shown no remorse.
In explaining his sentencing decision, Gregerson noted there was an element of predation in the case because Kuhnhausen was 17 and Bogdanov was 25 at the time. Bogdanov also admitted during the trial to giving Kuhnhausen alcohol.
The judge also pointed to testimony that Bogdanov dumped Kuhnhausen’s body, left the country and lied to police during the six months she was considered missing.
He said Bogdanov “prolonged the suffering and agony of the family and the community.”
Outside of the courtroom, Woods said she feels “blessed” and that the judge honored Kuhnhausen’s life. Woods held a photo of Kuhnhausen at 3 years old wearing a tiara.
Kuhnhausen’s family and supporters hugged outside of the courtroom, saying, “We did it.”
A vigil for Kuhnhausen was planned for 7 p.m. Thursday at Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver.