What happened to Kai the hitchhiker? The viral vigilante is the subject of a Netflix true crime doc

'If you're going to glorify someone, you better know who you're glorifying,' we hear in the Netflix documentary trailer

Kai The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker being interviewed
(Image credit: Netflix)

What happened to Kai the hitchhiker? If you're searching for the best true crime documentaries, Netflix has a new addition to add to the list. 

The streamer's January 10 release, The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, focuses on a young man who quickly turned into a viral sensation. Kai was beloved for seemingly stepping in when danger arose, but his reality was far darker than the minute-long clip people saw on the internet. 

"Part of me wondered what actually happened that day in Fresno," we hear in the documentary. "Was this him being the hero or not?"

Before we learn the infamous hitchhiker's whereabouts today, let's recap: in 2013, Kai, whose real name was Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, made the news in California when a driver, Jett Simmons McBride, struck a pedestrian. A woman named Tanya Baker was trying to help the person who was struck when McBride attacked her for interfering. That's when Kai stepped in.

 “A guy that big can snap a woman's neck like a pencil stick. So I f****** ran up behind him with a hatchet. Smash, smash, SUH-MASH," he said in his interview with KMPH, which has been remixed more times than we can probably count. (Evidenced below.)  

Millions of views later, quite literally, we had an internet sensation. The animated vigilante was not afraid of using a few expletives on camera, and people particularly loved his sign-off.

"No matter what you've done, you deserve respect," he said. "Even if you've made mistakes, you're lovable. It doesn't matter your looks, skills, age, size or anything. You're worthwhile—no one can ever take that away from you."

Was this a confession of sorts without anyone realizing it?

"Hitting someone in the head with a hatchet three times, blunt side or not, is violent," we hear in the doc.

What happened to Kai the hitchhiker?

Kai, Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, will be jailed until 2061, not for his hatchet-wielding behavior, but for taking someone's life. 

"This guy went from this heroic, beautiful person to wanted to for murder," we hear in the documentary trailer. 

Several months after his viral interview, Kai was arrested and charged with murdering 73-year-old veteran and lawyer Joseph Galfy from New Jersey, who was found dead at his home. Kai claimed to have crossed paths with him in Times Square and was fending off his sexual abuse. 

In April 2019, the then 24-year-old was found guilty and sentenced to 57 years behind bars. According to NJ.com, 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."

Despite the fact the he remains imprisoned in New Jersey, Kai made sure the world did not hear the last of him. According to the Associated Press, he attempted to overturn his murder conviction in 2021. The outlet further claimed that Kai insisted the jury’s verdict wasn’t justified by the evidence that was presented in court. He also believed that prosecutors had mischaracterized the evidence and his defense.

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker is now streaming on Netflix. Have a look at the best true crime on Netflix

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.