PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Court documents revealed the potential motive behind the killing of Vancouver teen Nikki Kuhnhausen, as the man suspected of murdering her made his first court appearance on Wednesday morning.
Nikki, a 17-year-old transgender teen, had not contacted her family since June 5, according to the Vancouver Police Department. Nikki’s friends told detectives she had been staying with a friend on the night of June 5 but had left to meet a man who was later identified as David Bogdanov.
Nikki reportedly returned to her friend’s house shortly before 5 a.m. the next morning holding a bottle of vodka and wearing a man’s coat which was determined to be Bogdanov’s. She told her friends that she had been out with “an older Russian” man. The investigation revealed Nikki used one of her friend’s cell phones to message Bogdanov via Snapchat, with the last exchange coming shortly after 5:30 a.m.
Nikki then left the house, telling her friends she was going to meet up with the suspect once again.
According to court documents, detectives interviewed Bogdanov in October after some difficulty tracking him down. Bogdanov reportedly told detectives he had first encountered Nikki in downtown Vancouver while out with his brother. He said he met up with her for a second time later that night after giving her the address of where he was staying.
Bogdanov allegedly picked Nikki up in a white van and drove to his brother’s house. He told detectives that while outside the house, he and Nikki were “chit-chatting” and she told Bogdanov she was biologically male.
The suspect said he was “shocked,” “uncomfortable” and “really, really disturbed.” Court documents show that Bogdanov said that “homosexuality is unacceptable in Russian culture.” He then told detectives he asked Nikki to exit the van and leave. He said she walked away and he never saw her again.
Bogdanov said he went to work in Portland immediately after Nikki walked away from the van — yet, his cell phone records revealed he actually drove out to the area of Larch Mountain and returned to his brother’s house about an hour and 25 minutes later.
A citizen found a human skull on Dec. 7 in the Larch Mountain woods. A search and rescue team was deployed, which then searched the very steep and wooded area for any other remains and evidence. Forensic analysis later confirmed the skull, along with additional remains, belonged to Nikki.
Clark County Medical Examiner Dr. Burt ruled Nikki’s death a homicide by asphyxiation.
Police made contact with Bogdanov on Tuesday, who then declined to make any further comments. He was then arrested for second-degree murder and booked into the Clark County Jail.
Vancouver Police held a press conference shortly after the court appearance on Wednesday morning. When asked whether this will be classified as a hate crime, police said that will be left up to the discretion of the prosecution.
However, Vancouver PD does not take cases like this lightly.
“We would love the community to know we take all of these cases seriously,” said Lt. Tom Ryan. “Whenever we have a case with a person in a group that is sometimes targeted because of their personas or beliefs and lifestyles — then we tend to bump that up on our concern levels. We take them seriously.”
It will also be the prosecution’s job to determine if this was pre-meditated as that will decide whether the charge will be elevated to first-degree murder or remain second-degree.
Nikki will be missed by the community, her friends and her family.
“She was so bright, everything was a smile even if she was just coming up to you — she was always smiling,” said her friend, Taylor.
“We love her and we just want justice for our friend,” said Arielle, another friend.
KOIN 6 News will continue to update this story.