While the phrase “hatchet-wielding hitchhiker” doesn’t usually bring to mind happy headlines, in the case of overnight celebrity Kai Lawrence, it was actually what earned him the title of “hero,” at least initially. It wasn’t long, however, until there were more headlines associated with Kai along with a new title—”murderer.” Here’s the full scoop on who the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker really is and where he is now.
The new Netflix documentary Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker centers around a strange young man and his story. Kai Lawrence was a 24-year-old Canadian native who was a skateboarding free spirit who was, as he put it, “home free.” His initial claim to fame was an odd interview that followed a very violent and bizarre incident in Fresno, California. After hitching a ride with a man named Jett Simmons McBride, Kai was taken on the ride of his life.
McBride reportedly began claiming he was the “next Jesus Christ” and, in a racially motivated crime, decided to run over a local man with his car. After wrecking and pinning the man with his car, one woman ran to confront the driver, who, much to everyone’s surprise, got out and began trying to choke the woman in a bear hug. While many were standing by, too shocked to move, Kai apparently hopped into action by pulling a hatchet from his pack and striking the man three times.
He retold his bizarre tale to KMHP local news person Jessob Reisbeck. Kai’s story was chaotic and humorous. Before telling it, he looked directly into the camera, expressing to the future audience that they were loved, and their lives mattered. Many were charmed by his laidback demeanor and his seeming heart of gold. He was labeled a hero and overnight became one of the most sought-after people on the internet, so much so, that the original reporter’s inbox was swarmed with requests for follow-up interviews with Kai. Reality TV show producers wanted to give him his own series, and even Jimmy Kimmel wanted a piece of the man known as the “hatchet-wielding hitchhiker.”
Where is Kai Lawrence now?
While many thought they knew the full story of this friendly, laid-back surfing nomad, it turns out there was far more to Kai than met the eye. Starting with his name. The Netflix documentary dove deep and found not only members of his family, but his real name, which was Caleb Lawrence McGillvary. Kai had claimed a history of childhood abuse, saying he had been locked in his bedroom for hours on end, even put in a cage. His mother, however, disputed all claims of abuse. She did however give some insight into some of Kai’s bizarre behavior, saying they had struggled in his youth to find the right mental health diagnosis for him. Kai delved into drugs and alcohol, and his nomadic lifestyle began.
While many thought Kai was simply a loveable character who perhaps just preferred life on the road, the truth began to fall into place. He was a homeless, potentially traumatized, mentally ill young man, with addictions and violent tendencies who now had a nationwide platform. Although it became immediately apparent he was not a fit for a reality TV show, his fame continued. It was a pressure cooker for an inevitable fallout.
Unfortunately, viewers did not have to wait long as Kai’s story began to unfold, and it came to a shocking end. The case of a dead body in New Jersey, a police plea for Kai’s whereabouts combined with a cryptic post on Kai’s Facebook soon raised the alarm that all in the hatchet hitchhiker’s world was not right. A 73-year-old New Jersey lawyer, Joseph Galfy, was found beaten to death in his home, and on his coffee table sat Kai’s name and telephone number.
Finally, the nomad was found, and before anyone knew it, he was confessing to the crime. The sordid story began to unfold as Kai claimed the man sexually assaulted him and he, in self-defense had murdered him. These allegations cannot be substantiated as the only other person who knows the truth about what happened is dead.
Kai was subsequently arrested and convicted of the crime, and the now 34-year-old is currently in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. He is sentenced to 57 years to life, and his first appeal was denied, and in prison, the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker remains.
The strange story of Kai Lawrence is one that will likely make an impact for years to come as the title of “hatchet-wielding hitchhiker” isn’t one that is likely to shake off anytime soon. Yet it is sad that what started as an inspiring story of a local hero ended in the sordid tale of a convicted killer.