Six months after 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen went missing, a human skull that authorities believe belongs to her has been recovered in a wooded area and a Washington man has been charged with her murder.
Kuhnhausen was last seen leaving a friend’s house on June 6, when she said she was going to meet an “’older' Russian male” that she’d been out with earlier that night, PEOPLE reports, citing a probable cause statement. Her mother reported her missing on June 10, but a break in the case did not come until Dec. 7, when a passerby found a human skull in the Larch Mountain area.
“They were collecting bear grass in this rural area of the county and found this human skull,” Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp told the outlet of the gruesome discovery. Hair extensions were also found nearby, and attached to the hair was “what appeared to be a ligature,” according to the probable cause statement.
Medical examiners have since determined that Kuhnhausen’s death was a homicide by asphyxiation, PEOPLE reports.
David Bogdanov, a 25-year-old Vancouver resident, was arrested Tuesday in relation to the teen’s death and charged with second-degree murder, Clark County Today reports. Authorities believe that the two had a sexual encounter, after which Bogdanov learned that Kuhnhausen was assigned male at birth; police allege that Bogdanov then strangled the teen to death before getting rid of her body in the woods, according to the outlet.
Police say that Kuhnhausen and Bogdanov communicated via Snapchat on June 6, the day she was last seen alive, at around 5:30 a.m., and that they met up after that, with Kuhnhausen being in Bogdanov’s car at some point, PEOPLE reports.
Court documents state that police began trying to contact Bogdanov in late June, but were unable to speak with him until September, at which point they scheduled an interview with him the following month, according to Clark County Today. He reportedly told authorities that he first met Kuhnhausen on the street in Vancouver and invited her to go to a bar with him and his brothers. They eventually parted ways but met up later that night, with his brother Stanislav picking them up in his van and driving them both to his other brother Artur’s home, he said.
It was when Kuhnhausen and Bogdanov were talking outside of Artur’s house that the teen told Bogdanov that she’d been assigned male at birth; Bogdanov told police that the teen’s admission left him feeling “shocked,” “uncomfortable,” and “really, really disturbed,” according to the probable cause statement. He reportedly claimed that he then asked Kuhnhausen to leave, and that she obliged and left on foot.
Bogdanov, a construction worker, told police that he then went to work, but police allege that phone records prove that he “instead drove out to the area of Larch Mountain in east Clark County and returned to [his brother’s] residence approximately an hour and twenty-five minutes later,” PEOPLE reports.
Police believe that Bogdanov killed Kuhnhause out of anger, according to The Oregonian.
“I believe that David became enraged at the realization that he had engaged in sexual contact with a male whom he believed to be female and strangled Nikki to death,” Jason Mills, an officer with Vancouver Police, wrote in the probable cause affidavit.
Bogdanov appeared in Clark County court for his arraignment on Wednesday; he is currently being held on no bail and is scheduled to return to court for a bail hearing on Jan. 2, according to Clark County Today.
He has not yet entered a plea, but his attorney, Erin Bradley McAleer, said that Bogdanov will be pleading not guilty, according to PEOPLE.
“Mr. Bogdanov looks forward to fighting this case in the future,” McAleer said. They will also be arguing in favor of bail for him, according to the outlet.
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