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Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker is a nickname given to Kai Lawrence (real name Caleb Lawrence McGillvary), a man who saved a woman from an attacker by hitting him repeatedly with a hatchet. On the Internet, he was hailed as a hero after a local news station uploaded a video of his eyewitness account to YouTube in February of 2013.
On February 2nd, 2013, YouTuber Jessob Reisbeck uploaded a video featuring an interview with a homeless man named Kai from a local Fox affiliate KMPH in Fresno, California. In the video, Kai recounted saving a woman from a deranged man who had just rammed a man with his car (shown below, left).
The same day, Reisbeck uploaded an extended version of the KMPH news report as it was aired, including several other eye witness accounts insisting that the man rammed his car into a PG&E worker because he was black (shown above, right).
On the following day, Redditor Kickass_Cajun submitted the YouTube video to the /r/videos subreddit, where it received over 6,400 up votes and 1,000 comments within the first 48 hours. Shortly after the video was submitted to Reddit, it was made private by the original uploader. That same day, Redditor JakeDeLaPlaya submitted a mirror version hosted on WorldStarHipHop to the /r/justiceporn subreddit, where it received more than 1,600 up votes and 250 comments within the next two days.
Also on February 3rd, The News Tribune reported that the PG&E worker was sent to a hospital with a broken leg and the attacker had been identified as Jett Simmons McBride, a 54-year-old man from Tacoma, Washington. Meanwhile, a Facebook group called Kai the Homefree Hitchhiker was launched by an anonymous fan. On February 4th, the video was picked up by Uproxx, The FW, and Metafilter, where it earned more than 120 comments. Later that day, YouTuber MrDamageGames uploaded the first musical remix based on the news report (shown below).
Kai’s Face Tattoo
On March 7th, McGillvary posted pictures of his new face tattoo, comprised of more than a dozen mystical symbols. Shortly after McGillvary’s post went live on Facebook, Lost Coast Outpost picked up on the story and challenged its readers to identify the meanings behind the symbols.
On February 7th, KMPH re-interviewed Kai in a more serious manner (shown below, left), asking him about his life and the past that led him to his homefree lifestyle. He noted that he was fluent in three languages and shared his passions for skateboarding and music. Five days later, Kai appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live (shown below, right) where he explained his lifestyle. Kimmel confirmed that he did pay Kai in cash for his appearance, which he promptly handed out to homeless people in the area.
In early April, Vice caught up with Kai, who was staying with an artist in Venice Beach at the time. During the interview, Kai noted that he had gotten into a fight in a bar bathroom sometime after the incident in February, beating a man to a point where he may have needed surgery. He also spoke about testifying at Jett McBride’s trial and dealing with verbal confrontations from the defense lawyer.
Arrest for Murder
On May 14th, 2013, Kai posted a mysterious status update to his Facebook profile rhetorically asking what his followers would do if they had woken up in a stranger’s home and realized they had been “drugged and raped.”
On May 16th, law enforcement authorities in Union County, New Jersey issued an arrest warrant for the 34-year-old Caleb Lawrence McGillvary in connection to the homicide of Joseph Galfy, Jr. According to the local news station WABC, the 73-year-old Galfy was found bludgeoned to death in his home in Clark, New Jersey on May 13th. Authorities revealed McGillvary had met Galfy in Times Square on May 12th and stayed with a fan in Glassboro, New Jersey after the murder. By the time the warrant was issued, he was reportedly last seen with short hair at a light rail station in Haddonfield but had since fled New Jersey and was considered to be armed and dangerous. Later that same day at 7 p.m. (ET), he was arrested by the police at a bus terminal in Philadelphia after a Starbucks employee identified him.
On June 3rd, McGillvary was formally charged with murder of Joseph Galfy and his bail was set at $3 million, to which he responded with “Oh, fine. Cool" and entered a “not guilty” plea. In addition, he requested the judge additional time to secure a private attorney. On the following day, McGillvary’s public defender confirmed that his friends have been trying to raise a legal defense fund to have him represented by New Jersey attorney Miles Feinstein Stanley.
When New Jersey news site The Star-Ledger reached out to Feinstein, he acknowledged that he had been contacted about McGillivary’s case and would decide whether to take the case after talking to the defendant. The Star-Ledger article also reported that the contact was arranged by Georgia resident Terry Radliff, who launched a website to raise fund for his legal defense. As of June 4th, sympathizers and supporters of McGillivary have donated $1,467.
“My original intent was to help him have a fair trial,” Radliff said in telephone interview today. “There’s a chance he could be telling the truth,” Radliff said, referring to a May 14 Facebook post where McGillivary intimated he was drugged and sexually assaulted, but did not say where or when. Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow has called those comments “self-serving.”
The South Jersey Sun – UPDATE: Haddonfield Police Chief confirms murder suspect has left state
The Star Ledger – Kai The Hitchhiker’s fans may pay for attorney in murder case