A trans teenager was strangled to death and dumped in the woods. Her mother is making sure it wasn’t in vain
The death of Nikki Kuhnhausen, a 17-year-old trans teen allegedly strangled to death by 25-year-old David Bogdanov, rippled across Washington, US.
Kuhnhausen’s loved ones scrambled to find her after she went missing in June 2019. But the search came to a graphic end in December, when her skull was found in a forested area in Larch Mountain, in the neighbouring state of Oregon.
Bogdanov stands accused of second degree murder, having allegedly strangled Kuhnhausen to death with her own hair extension after connecting with her on Snapchat.
The suspect told detectives when he met Kuhnhausen and found out she was trans, he felt “shocked”, “uncomfortable”, and “really, really disturbed”.
It was feared that when Bogdanov stood trial (scheduled to begin July 6), he might use the “trans panic defence”, which has long been criticised by LGBT+ advocates for lobbing the blame of a killing from the assailant to the victim themselves.
But Kuhnhausen’s mother, Lisa Woods, has ensured that this will not happen.
Woods worked with Washington state legislators and local activists to have the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act signed into law – preventing defendants from claiming “diminished capacity” upon leaning of a victim’s gender identity.
The act went into effect last month – with Washington becoming only the 10th US state to pass such a law – and Woods explained why she worked with trans activists so passionately to architect the law.
Nikki Kuhnhausen ‘was confident and beautiful and so secure and courageous’, says mother.
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“On the first day of sixth grade, [Kuhnhausen] walked out of her bedroom door and she was Nikki, and she was Nikki ever since then,” Woods told Advocate.
“I knew she was special and I never discouraged her. I built her up to be whatever she wanted.
“She was confident and beautiful and so secure and courageous. She knew who she was inside and was not ashamed or embarrassed or afraid.”
Reading a letter her daughter sent her weeks before her disappearance, Kuhnhausen wrote: “To my beautiful mommy, I love you so very much. You’re the best mommy ever.
“Just thinking about you makes my whole world happy. I love you, Nikki.”
Members of the violence prevention group National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation cooperated with authorities for a six-months-long search to find Kuhnhausen.
On December 7, the search was over after a hiker found the remains of Kuhnhausen on Larch Mountain, a remote part of northeast Clark County.