Where is Kai from The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker now as gripping Netflix documentary revisits the viral true story

The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker tells the tale of how internet stardom was soon supplanted by decades in prison for Kai

Kai from The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker
(Image credit: Netflix)

Kai from The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker might not be remembered by everyone but the chilling Netflix documentary revisits this almost unbelievable true crime story. 

Homeless hitchhiker Kai first gripped the world’s imagination almost 10 years ago when his interview about acting to defend a woman from attack by wielding a hatchet against her assailant went viral. For several months he rode the wave of fame but it all came tumbling down when he was linked to a horrifically violent crime. Delving into the shocking true story, The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker documentary might well appeal to true crime fans who hoped to see justice served in Netflix's The Girl in the Picture and The Imposter

And if you don’t remember the interview that started it all or the subsequent revelations then we've got you covered. Here we reveal what Kai from The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker did, what his real name is and where the former internet star is now…

*Warning: spoilers ahead*

Kai in The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker

(Image credit: Netflix)

What did Kai from The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker do and what’s his real name? 

He might be best-known as Kai the Hitchhiker, but the real name of the man at the center of Netflix’s The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker is Caleb Lawrence McGillvary. Back in 2013 when the sinister events of the documentary took place he was homeless and hitchhiker and he rose to the ranks of internet stardom after he saved a woman who was facing attack from taxi driver, Jett Simmons McBride. 

Reaching into his backpack, Kai pulled out a hatchet - hence the title of the Netflix doc - and proceeded to save her by hitting the driver over the head several times. 

He later claimed that McBride had allegedly admitted once assaulting a teenage girl before driving into a passer-by and threatening the woman who’d come over to help. McBride went on trial for his actions and according to Netflix Live (opens in new tab), he was found not guilty and is a patient at Atascadero State Hospital in California.

It was perhaps just as much Kai's response to McBride's actions as the apparent rescue itself which caught the world’s attention. The hitchhiker was later filmed by a local California TV news crew and after being asked about his actions he said that he simply went “smash, smash, suh-mash” with the hatchet. 

This clip then went on to become viral, with people creating edits of his words and YouTube videos. He even appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in February 2013 as he continued to win praise and grip the public’s imagination.

The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker

(Image credit: Netflix)

However, within a few months a far darker side to Kai the Hitchhiker became known when the police announced that Caleb Lawrence McGillvary was wanted for the murder of a New Jersey lawyer, Joseph Galfy, who’d been found dead in his home. Kai was arrested for the crime and according to People (opens in new tab), he claimed that he’d woken up to find Galfy assaulting him and that his violent actions had been in self-defense - something that has never been proven. 

The police had come calling for Kai after finding a note with his name on it at the lawyer’s house and a train ticket receipt. Looking into the CCTV from the station, they’d seen video evidence of Kai and Galfy together. The hitchhiker was put on trial for the murder with Digital Spy (opens in new tab) claiming that a medical examiner testified at his trial about how the injuries Galfy had were inconsistent with Kai’s story of self-defense.

Where is Kai from The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker now? 

After being immersed in the dark details of any true-crime show or documentary it’s all-too-easy to wonder what’s become of the criminals now and some might well be speculating if Kai from The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker is still at large. The answer is no - he was found guilty of the murder of Joseph Galfy in 2019 and is in prison now. This verdict came after Kai spent six years waiting for his trial and pleading not guilty. 

According to NJ.com (opens in new tab) he'd almost been thrown out of the New Jersey courtroom following an outburst at the closing arguments. Ultimately, he was sentenced to 57 years in prison in 2019 when he was 30 years old. 

Netflix's The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker

(Image credit: Netflix)

At the time of the verdict acting Union County Prosecutor Michael Monham declared, “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.”

Kai from The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker remains in prison in New Jersey to this day and he apparently has a release date of 2061 as it was decided he had to serve at least 85% of his sentence before being eligible for parole. 

Has The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker appealed his sentence?  

Just like Clyde in Texas Killing Fields and Michael Peterson in The Staircase, Kai the Hitchhiker maintained his innocence and so it’s perhaps no surprise that he did try to appeal his sentence for murder. What might come as a surprise though is that he partly lodged the appeal himself. As reported by NJ.com, a new lawyer and Kai filed legal briefs which apparently made allegations about prejudicial errors during the original trial. It’s said that two appellate judges made the decision to uphold the original verdict and deny his appeal in 2021.

The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker

(Image credit: Netflix)

Where is Kai the hitchhiker from? 

Caleb ‘Kai’ Lawrence McGillvary is reportedly from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada but is serving his sentence in a New Jersey State Prison as that’s where the murder of Joseph Galvy took place. His original interview that went viral was given in California where the incident with McBride happened. 

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker is available to watch now via Netflix. 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.