Hulu brings a brand-new docuseries, “How I Caught My Killer.” The docuseries follows the stories of victims who helped solve their own cases by leaving traces of clues. The first episode circles around the story of Nikki Kuhnhausen. She was a 17-year-old transgender teenager. Let’s dig into her story.
What Is The Episode About?
Nikki Kuhnhausen was a teenager who lived in Vancouver, Washington. Her social media was filled with selfies and TikTok videos. According to her mother, it was her social media accounts that gave her confidence. The docuseries introduces the viewers to her mother, Lisa Kuhnhausen. Lisa describes her daughter as a beautiful girl who has loved make-up ever since she was a child. Born a boy, Nikki was different from her brothers. She was a fearless child who accepted herself. While her brothers played with “boyish toys,” she played with Barbie dolls.
Nikki was very close to Lisa and always replied to her text messages. However, one day, she stopped posting anything online and also didn’t respond to text messages. It was very unusual since she was a person who was always active on social media. Immediately, Lisa started suspecting something was wrong. She tried reaching out to her multiple times but in vain. Her brothers were worried, and she had over 10,000 followers who started noticing her absence. There were comments about her disappearance, and people were faithfully looking for her. She was a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and her friends were worried sick.
When Lisa reached out to the officials, she said Nikki was either dead or being held against her will. The officials were puzzled since they had no clue why Nikki would go missing.
Nikki had been missing for days, and the investigators had no leads. They tried contacting every friend, but none of them had any idea where Nikki could have been. According to one of the detectives, it is not uncommon for trans people to run away from their houses. Generally, it is due to a lack of support from their family. But in Nikki’s case, it was different. She was Lisa’s best friend, and everyone around her supported her decisions. So why would she run away? Lisa was desperate for answers, and the police had a lot of pressure on them. The police reached out to Nikki’s roommates. One of them, Faith, informed the police that Nikki had used her phone to text a man on Snapchat. However, she had logged out of her phone after texting him. The police had a lead now, but every messenger company has privacy rights which makes it difficult for authorities to ask for a user’s data. Nevertheless, Snapchat reached out to the authorities, and the police were able to track down the name of the person she had messaged on Snapchat. The last person who had seen her was David Bogdanov.
Who Is David Bogdanov?
David Bogdanov is a Russian man with a big family. He had texted Nikki on Snapchat, and they had planned to meet up. The police were able to track the location from which the messages were sent, and it was right outside Nikki’s home. Why was he outside her house? The police needed answers now. There was a mother who was waiting for her daughter to return and was praying for her safety. When police tried tracking him down, they went to one of David’s brothers, who said David had gone backpacking, while the other brother was clearly surprised upon hearing this while the police interrogated him. The police had noticed the mannerisms of how the brothers were talking about David and noted that one of them looked nervous. The number one person of interest was David, but he was nowhere to be found. The police decided to reach out to him on Snapchat, the platform where he last communicated with Nikki. The message was read, but there was no response. But, to the police’s surprise, he responded to their second attempt. He agreed to meet the detectives who were investigating Nikki’s case. He told the police that he was “disgusted” with the fact that Nikki was trans, and he had asked her to get out of his vehicle as soon as he found out the truth. He was very malicious with his words. He said he had met Nikki in downtown Vancouver, and they had agreed to meet, but when he asked her to get out of his car, it was the last time he saw her. David walked away from that interview as a free man since the police had no evidence against him, and he was not a suspect, just a person of interest.
After a few weeks, a hiker discovered human remains on Larch Mountain. The investigators started searching the area and found clothes and jewelry that belonged to Nikki. After the forensic department came back with their results, it was confirmed that the remains were those of Nikki. Her family was devastated, and a vigil was kept at a local church for Nikki. Her community was scared, and everyone was sure she was murdered because she was transgender. The community sought justice for her and started spreading awareness.
Along with her remains, the police found a charging cable that had strands of hair wrapped around it. The investigators declared that Nikki was murdered by strangulation. Lisa did not stop trying to get justice for her daughter, and the whole community started getting restless. There were news reports on the case, and the community started posting about Nikki online. Soon, the police had more data on David. Through his phone service, the police found out that his phone was on Larch Mountain the day Nikki went missing. It was now clear that David was not just a person of interest but a suspect. The police called him in for further questioning because his story did not match theirs. In a recorded video, the viewers see how he told the police he needed a lawyer. David was arrested for the murder of Nikki.
What Was David’s Defense?
The LGBTQ+ community was scared that David would use her identity against her. There was a precedent called the “gay and trans panic defense,” under which a person could claim they hurt a member of the community in a fit of rage. However, David said the murder was an act of self-defense. He claimed that he and Nikki were getting intimate when he found out that Nikki was transgender, and he asked her to get out of his vehicle, but she was the one who was going to hurt him since she reached out for his gun. This was a new angle to the case since he had never mentioned a gun before. The jury did not buy his story, and he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the murder of Nikki.
Lisa and the supporters of Nikki were relieved that he got a sentence since they were not expecting justice for a transgender woman. David’s sentencing was a ray of hope for the community that celebrated Nikki’s life. She was a bright young girl who inspired many to be fearless like her. After David’s sentencing, Lisa and the LGBTQ+ community worked together to pass a bill that eliminates the gay and trans panic defense in the state of Washington. Even though this would not bring back a young life, it sure was a gift for the community.
Nikki’s story continues to inspire many, and even though she thought she was alone, the reality is different. She is very loved and still remembered as a talented girl who was youthful and accepted herself in a world where it is difficult to show your identity, especially if you belong to a community that is in the minority. Nikki faced a lot of criticism and hate while she was alive, but she continued to be herself. She was not ashamed of her identity and lived with pride. She was just 17 when she died, and David’s 19-year sentence seems short in front of Lisa and Nikki’s supporters’ grief.