'Kai, the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker': Viral Star Sentenced to 57 Years in Murder Trial

Caleb McGillvary, the man who gained Internet fame in 2013 as "Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker," was sentenced to 57 years in prison for the 2013 beating death of a lawyer in New Jersey.

Prosecutors in Union Country, New Jersey said McGillvary, 30, first met Joseph Galfy, 73, in New York City's Times Square, less than two days before Galfy was found dead in his home. The victim was found partially clothed beside his bed, reports CBS New York. Investigators linked McGillvary to the murder using cell phone data, surveillance footage and other evidence.

McGillvary said the beating was self-defense, but a county medical examiner said the victim, "who stood 5-foot-5, weighed 230 pounds, and had a stent in his chest due to a heart condition," suffered serious blunt-force injuries to his face. Galfy had three skull fractures, four broken ribs, contusions, bleeding and abrasions, so prosecutors did not buy the self-defense claim.

Prosecutors also pointed out that McGillvary cut his long hair. He also fled New Jersey after the beating.
McGillvary's trial lasted three weeks in April. It took the jury less than two days to find him guilty.

According to NJ.com, McGillvary got into several arguments with prosecutors and Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch during the trial. Even during sentencing on Thursday, he yelled, "Are you f–ing kidding me?" At one point, Kirsch had to tell him to "keep your mouth shut."

"You are crafty, cunning, disingenuous and manipulative," the judge said. "You are a powder keg of explosive rage."

Kirsch defended the long sentence, saying he believed McGillvary could commit another crime that could also turn violent.

However, in his own statement, McGillvary said his other encounters with people did not end in violence.

"The hundreds of people I've stayed with ... now question 'Why didn't Kai hurt us?' because this trial didn't answer those questions, but my character does," McGillvary told the court. "My character for helping people is why people were safe with me."

McGillvary vowed to appeal, and he has 45 days to do so. He will receive credit for the six years he was in jail while awaiting trial and will not be eligible for parole until 2061.


McGillvary became a viral star in February 2013, when he told a Fresno, California reporter he helped save a woman by using the hatchet he had in his bag. The original video has racked up 7.45 million views since 2013, while a song version of the interview has more than 10 million. Just four months after the video was released, McGillvary was arrested for murder.

Photo credit: YouTube