From the second 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen went lacking from Vancouver, Washington, in June of 2019, her mom feared the worst.
“I knew something had happened,” stated Nikki’s mom, Lisa Woods. Typically, she and Nikki spoke day by day, however Nikki had stopped responding. “She would never do this to me. I just knew that she was being held against her will or worse.”
Her fears would show to be well-founded. Nikki’s stays had been discovered six months after her disappearance by a hiker on a close-by mountain.
“This is a narrative and a story that plays out all across the country and the world all the time,” stated activist Devon Davis Williamson of the Justice for Nikki Task Force. Nikki was a lady, and, stated Davis Williamson, “When trans people go missing, they’re usually found deceased.”
Family members knew Nikki was transgender from a really younger age. Though she started life as Nikolas, she was all the time certain of her id. “She was always just Nikki,” Woods informed “48 Hours” contributor Jamie Yuccas in “The Life and Death of Nikki Kuhnhausen,” airing Saturday at 10/9c on CBS and Paramount+. Though the identify Nikki got here simply as the same identify to Nikolas, Woods stated there was one more reason for the selection: Nikki needed to be extra like her idol, Nicki Minaj.
“She loved Nicki Minaj,” Woods stated. When she and Nikki went for drives collectively, Nikki would sit along with her toes out the window, singing alongside to Minaj’s music. On TikTok, Nikki ceaselessly posted lip sync homages to Minaj’s in style songs.
And Nikki had massive desires — she hoped in the future to work along with her hero. “She wanted to be Nicki Minaj’s hair and makeup artist,” stated Woods, who believes Nikki would have had a vivid future as a stylist. “The cheerleaders loved the way that she did her makeup, and they wanted her to do their makeup, as well … and give them lessons.”
In spite of the tragedy, Woods was relieved when Nikki’s stays had been discovered. “So many horror stories of unsolved murders and missing trans people all over the country, you know, all over the world,” she stated. “And I prayed and prayed to bring my baby home. And God did.”
The discovery of the physique led to an arrest: a person named. Data retrieved from cell tower information positioned his cellphone on the mountain on the morning Nikki disappeared. In an early interview, he informed police he had met up with Nikki that night time.
He stated that when he discovered she was transgender, he felt “disgusted,” and that he discovered her and different LGBTQI individuals “disturbing.” LGBTQI is an abbreviation to consult with lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex individuals and communities. Bogdanov denied that he killed Nikki in a rage over her gender id, however a so-calledis typically relied upon by defendants who declare somebody’s gender or sexual id excuses their violent acts.
“The trans panic defense is where someone says that they were so out of control when they found out that someone was trans that it establishes what’s called diminished capacity,” stated Clark County prosecutor Kristen Arnaud. “So, you essentially aren’t culpable for your actions because you are not in the right state of mind.”
Woods and the Justice for Nikki Task Force set to work to make sure this protection could be outlawed within the state of Washington. The ensuing laws would come to be often known as “Nikki’s Law,” and it handed with overwhelming help in March of 2020.
“Even though these crimes are not going to stop being committed,” stated Justice for Nikki activist Linden Walls, “at least people can be held accountable to the fullest extent.”
At his trial in August of 2021, Bogdanov took the stand in his personal protection. He testified that he discovered Nikki was transgender throughout a sexual encounter in his automobile and he pushed her away, telling her she was “disgusting.” As a end result, he stated, Nikki attacked him. He claims he killed her in an try to defend himself.
“If David comes across anybody, whoever it is,” stated his sister Liliya Bogdanov, “There is no hate.” She believes Bogdanov would by no means have harm Nikki due to who she was.
Walls just isn’t so certain. “I felt like David Bogdanov’s defense was a very thinly-veiled trans panic defense,” they stated. “It didn’t look much different than the stories that we’ve heard in the past for trans women that were murdered.”
Ultimately, theof each homicide within the second diploma and malicious harassment, which is now often known as a hate crime in Washington.
“It was a very powerful moment to feel that sense of justice,” stated Walls. “You know, I think being there with trans youth and other trans people … felt really powerful and healing.”
Lisa Woods remains to be therapeutic. She prefers to recollect her daughter for her spunky persona, her take care of others, and her massive aspirations. Woods nonetheless watches these TikTok homages to Nicki Minaj and is grateful for the movies Nikki left behind.
“She’s really sassy and confident,” Woods stated. “You can tell from her TikToks.”
Linden Walls hopes Nikki’s desires will nonetheless have an effect. “Finding a way to memorialize Nikki and empower other trans teenagers to pursue their dreams I think is the next step.”