From a viral sensation to a convicted murderer: The story of 'Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker'

From a viral sensation to a convicted murderer: The story of 'Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker'
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Thirty-year-old Caleb 'Kai' McGillvary, who most may recognize as 'Kai the Hitchhiker,' was convicted on April 24 in the beating death of a prominent 73-year-old New Jersey lawyer at his Union County home six years ago.

According to, the jury at the Union County Courthouse found McGillvary guilty of first-degree murder in the May 13, 2013, death of Joseph Galfy just a day after they began deliberating all the testimonies they had heard during the three-week trial.

Speaking after the verdict, Union County prosecutor Michael Monahan said, "This was a brutal, vicious, senseless crime, and we are pleased that the interests of justice have been served. We sincerely thank the jury for their service and hope that today’s verdict brings some measure of solace to Mr. Galfy’s family, friends, and loved ones."

It's a remarkable turnaround for a man who was once the talk of the internet. Turn the clock back to 2013 and you would be hard-pressed in finding someone who had not heard of 'Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker.' 

McGillvary had become an internet sensation after netizens could not get enough of his bizarre television interview with Fox affiliate KMPH where he animatedly bragged about saving two people while hitchhiking in Fresno, California, with his hatchet.

He describes how, as he was hitchhiking, he was picked up by a 300-pound man named Jett Simmons McBride, who claimed to be Jesus Christ reincarnate. He says as McBride boasted of raping a 14-year-old girl in the Virgin Islands while on a business trip, he crashed the car into a pedestrian, pinning him against the vehicle.

In the video, McGillvary says he got out of the car to help the victim, at which point another woman arrived at the scene to assist him. He claimed McBride then jumped out and attacked the woman in a bear hug, leaving him fearing he would snap her neck "like a pencil stick" and with no choice but to save them.

He explains, with over-the-head swings, how he then removed his hatchet from a backpack and began striking McBride repeatedly in the back of the head, telling the interviewer he had to "Smash, Smash, SUH-MASH." He claimed the attacker staggered away and started masturbating at a nearby school before the police arrived and took him into custody.

The incredible video was uploaded on YouTube on February 2, 2013, and quickly went on to clock millions of views. Its virality saw his story featured on the likes of 'The Colbert Report' and 'Jimmy Kimmel Live,' and even inspired The Gregory Brothers to sample the interview and turn it into a song.

But what most would not have expected was that his story was entirely true. The female bystander later confirmed the incident in an interview and McBride reportedly had to undergo surgery for non-life-threatening injuries. He was a genuine hero.

McGillvary would soon become even more famous, but for all the wrong reasons. In May 2013, just two months after the video was published, authorities who went to Galfy's house on a welfare check found him severely beaten and dressed only in socks and underwear. The extent of his injuries was horrific — he had suffered three skull fractures, four broken ribs, and severe contusions.

They quickly identified McGillvary as a suspect based on witness accounts, as well as text messages he had sent Galfy, and arrested him on murder charges. He was also found to have a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer for three arrests in Canada.

McGillvary, while admitting to killing Galfy, maintained he had only done so out of self-defense. It was a claim seemingly backed by a Facebook post he had made in the hours following the murder where he had written, "What would you do? if you awoke in a stranger's house and found you'd been drugged and sexually assaulted."

He told detectives he had met Galfy by chance at Times Square on May 11 and had accepted an invitation by the lawyer to sleep in the guest room of his home. He said he when he woke up the next morning, he had bodily fluids on his face. A day later, he said he accepted a beer from Galfy and blacked out, waking up to find the 73-year-old "grinding and humping" him. He said he hit Galfy and ran away.

He also hit back at claims made by the police which suggested the sexual encounter was consensual, stating he had no need to have sex with men like Galfy, who he described as unattractive. "Do you know how many hot chicks—never mind. Even if I was gay, do you know how many hot guys wanted to f*** me after that shit in California? I’m not even being vain. It’s just a fact, like—no offense, but he [Galfy] was not a looker," he was quoted saying.

The murder charges, however, stuck, and McGillvary spent the next five years in prison awaiting his trial, which was not without its own controversy. He became combative as he was cross-examined by assistant prosecutor Scott Peterson, with the two often raising their voices at one another and forcing Judge Robert Kirsch to call order to the courtroom and remind McGillvary several times not to speak out of turn or add irrelevant information.

In the end, the prosecutors were able to convince the jury that the extent of Galfy's injuries indicated the killing had not been done out of self-defense, which means come his sentencing, McGillvary is looking at at least life imprisonment.

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