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Man convicted in transgender teen's murder sentenced to 20 years in prison

Hate crimes in U.S. rise to highest levels in decades
Hate crimes in U.S. rise to highest levels in decades 00:41

A Vancouver, Washington, man convicted of killing transgender teen Nikki Kuhnhausen was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison. A jury found David Bogdanov, 27, guilty in late August of second-degree murder and malicious harassment, which is a hate crime under Washington law, The Columbian reported.

Transgender Teen Murder
Defendant David Bogdanov is escorted into the courtroom for the verdict in his trial at the Clark County Courthouse in Vancouver, Wash., on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. Amanda Cowan / AP

Before sentencing, Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson became emotional, saying he was "struck by the darkness in this case."

Kuhnhausen, 17, was reported missing in June 2019, and a hiker found her skull in the woods near Larch Mountain in eastern Clark County in December 2019. Police arrested Bogdanov days later.

Prosecutors said Bogdanov strangled Kuhnhausen with a cellphone charger cord after learning she was transgender during a sexual encounter in his van.

After dumping her body, Bogdanov 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.

Nikki Kuhnhausen in undated photo KOIN-TV

Bogdanov's attorneys claimed he was acting in self-defense and said in court they would appeal the conviction and sentence.

Bogdanov testified that he pushed Kuhnhausen away and yelled for her get out of his car, and that she lunged for a loaded gun he had near the driver's seat. Bogdanov said he wrapped the phone charger around her shoulders to pull her away, but the cord slipped up around her neck.

Gregerson noted at sentencing there was an element of predation in the case because Kuhnhausen was 17 and Bogdanov was 25 at the time and Bogdanov admitted during trial to giving Kuhnhausen alcohol.

The judge also noted testimony that Bogdanov lied to police during the six months she was missing, prolonging the suffering and agony of the family and community.

Kuhnhausen's mother, Lisa Woods, told the newspaper outside the courtroom that she feels the judge honored Kuhnhausen's life.

The number of hate crimes reported in 2020 was the highest recorded in over a decade, according to FBI data released last month. Hate incidents targeting transgender people were also up from 186 offenses in 2019 to 232 offenses in 2020. 

2019 -- the year Kuhnhausen was found dead -- was the deadliest year on record for victims of hate crimes since the FBI began recording the attacks in the early 1990s, with 51 people slain. 

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