Netflix's newest true crime movie The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker features a face you may recognise from a viral meme nearly 10 years ago, Kai Lawrence. In the space of a few months Kai went from an overnight internet celebrity, to being arrested for murder. So what actually happened?
The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker tells the story of Kai, a homeless man, who went viral in early 2013 for saving a woman's life by attacking the woman's assailant using a hatchet and "smashing" him around the head with it. Kai spoke with a local news team shortly after the event and the interview went viral, instantly making him a celebrity. Kai appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show and Justin Bieber's team reached out to him. However, after just a few months in the spotlight, he had been arrested for the murder of Joseph Galfy.
According to the Netflix the documentary: "Chronicles a happy-go-lucky nomad's ascent to viral stardom and the steep downward spiral that resulted in his imprisonment."
So why was Kai arrested for murder later that year? And where is he now? This everything you need to know about The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker.
What is the true story of The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker?
In February 2013, Kai the Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker reportedly hitched a ride with Jett Simmons McBride. Whilst in the car McBride reportedly said some alarming things and claimed he was the second coming of Jesus Christ. During the drive he crashed into a pedestrian on the side of the road and Kai got out of the car to help the individual.
When a woman came over to help Kai and the pedestrian, McBride allegedly got out of the car and tried to attack the woman. Kai then proceeds to get a hatchet out of his bag and attacks McBridge in the head.
Following the incident Kai, whose real name is Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, was interviewed by KMPH, where he explained what happened with a rather eccentric retelling. The team at KMPH uploaded the full six and a half minute interview to YouTube, and Kai became an overnight sensation.
Memes were created, a followup interview with KMPH was conducted, a producer for Keeping Up With The Kardashians wanted to create a reality show about him and Justin Bieber's team reached out to him for a music collab.
He later appeared in court as a witness in the McBride case.
Why was Kai arrested for murder?
Three months after he became an internet celebrity Kai travelled to New York.
He was soon arrested for the murder of 73-year-old lawyer Joseph Galfy. Galfy was found dead at his home in New Jersey wearing only his socks and underwear. He was found with his head bashed in.
During the police investigation they found a piece of paper with Kai's number and name on it underneath a laptop. There was also a train ticket receipt which the police used to track down surveillance footage, which showed Galfy buying Kai a train ticket, and the pair hugging goodbye.
Kai was later tracked down at a Philadelphia bus station and confessed to the murder of Galfy.
However, whilst admitting to the murder, Kai claimed it was in self-defence. Kai claimed he met Galfy in Times Square and the two went for an Italian dinner and Galfy offered for Kai to stay at his home in New Jersey.
Kai then claimed when he woke up in Galfy's house, where he believed he had been drugged and sexually assaulted whilst sleeping. Kai said he didn't do anything about it and left the house, hoping to stay with a fan. However, when the fan didn't show up he called Galfy and asked to stay at his home.
During the second night he stayed over Kai claimed he woke to find Galfy sexually assaulting him and so he hit him repeatedly in the head using his hands and elbows.
The police said there were several holes in Kai's story. There was no sign of a struggle, Kai's recollections of events changed and he had been seen on video hugging Galfy and asking to stay with him again.
Where is Kai Lawrence now?
Following his arrest Kai was imprisoned until his trial in 2019. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 57 years in prison.
In 2021 he launched an appeal but lost the case. Kai remains in prison at the New Jersey State Prison, in Trenton.
The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker is available on Netflix now.
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