‘The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker’ Explained: What Led To Kai’s Downfall? Where Is Kai Now?


There is no end to the amusement that the internet brings to our lives. From expressing ourselves with the help of memes to making superstars out of ordinary people, thousands of lives have been altered simply because they said something funny online or had a weird picture taken that was “meme material.” “The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” follows the story of Kai and presents with the irony of how the internet celebrated a hitchhiker who “smashed” the head of a man trying to assault a woman with a hatchet. The video of Kai describing how he tackled the situation was an instant hit on the internet, with people calling him the hero that the world needed. While Kai deserved praise for saving the woman’s life, no one gave it serious thought and asked what a hitchhiker was doing with a hatchet. 

What Is ‘The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker’ About?

Jessob Reisbeck, a sports reporter, was asked to cover the story of a man who ran into a Black construction worker with his vehicle, pinning him against a truck and claiming to be Jesus Christ. The man, Jett Simmons McBride, went ahead and choked a bystander who had approached the victim, hoping to help him. As she was struggling, the hitchhiker, who was seated in the passenger seat of the vehicle, went ahead and knocked McBride down with his hatchet. The hitchhiker, Kai, struck his head three times, and the last blow was with the sharp end of the hatchet. Kai was able to save the woman’s life and prevent the situation from aggravating. Jessob realized that there was a hero to the story, and he had to interview the man to build the case. Kai was an ordinary guy who had done something unexpected and extraordinary. Before discussing how he saved the woman’s life, Kai looked straight into the camera and offered a few words of affirmation for those watching him. He called himself “home free” and seemed like an extremely caring individual. Jessob decided to upload the entire Kai interview, anticipating its potential. The next morning, he woke up to find that Kai had turned into an internet sensation, and everyone wanted a piece of him.

While Jimmy Kimmel and the Kardashian production teams hoped to get a hold of the man the internet was obsessed with, no one knew where Kai was. He did not know how popular he had become, and the only person who could contact him was Jessob Reisbeck. Kai contacted Jessob, and they decided to meet for another elaborate interview to be aired on KMBH. Kai had an endearing personality; he was someone who would steal from a local store and then distribute the goods among the ones who needed them the most. A skinny kid with a huge backpack and a bandana on his head was not the image of a hero, but that is precisely what made him an instant hit. He barely had enough to feed himself, yet he chose to help those around him. People loved the idea of how the young man was living a carefree life without the complexities of a modern lifestyle. While the idea of Kai was exciting, he was quite a handful to deal with. It was only Jessob who knew what it was like to spend time with Kai, but the more the others learned about him, the more they wondered if he was truly worth the hype. While Jessob attempted to discuss with him the various options he had now that he was famous, all Kai wanted to do was smoke weed. Many remembered Kai for his outrageous behavior. He did not think twice before urinating in public or even on the sets of the Jimmy Kimmel Show. He would gulp down booze and would lose track of his thoughts easily. People who wanted to make him famous and were planning shows around him now wondered if he truly was the right choice.

What Led To Kai’s Downfall? Where Is Kai Now?

After the Jimmy Kimmel show, Kai was all the more famous. He was swarmed by fans wherever he went, and he truly was living his best life. From being neglected by society to suddenly being celebrated by them was something Kai was adjusting to. People wanted to be with him, and they offered him company and places to stay. During the trial of Jett Simmons McBride, Kai disclosed that he had offered McBride marijuana, and after smoking it up, they discussed how they were ghosts at the moment and could drive through the truck. While McBride was surely guilty, Kai, too, had behaved irresponsibly and, in a way, influenced the incident that later occurred.

Jessob recalled how proud Kai was after he had smashed McBride’s head. It was not his first time doing something like this; he had previously attacked a man for assaulting a woman. He showed the camera his knuckles that had the man’s teeth mark. For him, it was a badge of honor because it showed how hard he fought to protect the victim. There was a sense of thrill and a lack of control in the stories narrated by Kai. Gradually, Kai went ahead to disclose the abuse he was subjected to during his childhood years. He shared that he was kept locked in his room for hours when he was young. While other kids played outside, Kai aka Caleb was forced to stay at home. He was later sent to an institute for troubled teens after he attempted to set his house on fire. After growing up and leaving home, he was sexually abused by a man, but he fought back and found his way. Kai had been a victim in various instances of his life, and if anyone triggered those memories, he could not control his rage.

At one point, the entire world wanted a piece of him, but his disrespectful behavior thinned out his options. During a music gig, he disclosed how the marijuana he had offered McBride was laced with various other drugs. He blamed McBride for his inability to handle drugs without realizing how problematic his behavior was or how he was partially responsible for the incident. He started to believe that he could get away without facing any consequences for his actions now that he was famous.

When police started investigating the murder of Joseph Galfy, a 73-year-old attorney, Kai’s name came up. Joseph was found beaten to death in his New Jersey home and while searching his house, the police found Kai’s name and number written on a piece of paper. The police tracked down surveillance footage after they discovered a train ticket receipt from the apartment. In the footage, Galfy and Kai hugged each other before Kai left. While the police knew that he was their guy, it was not easy to find Kai. He had trimmed his hair and changed his appearance to get away from the authorities. Though he was soon recognized by an employee at a café, who dialed 911. Three months after becoming an internet sensation, Kai was arrested. After his arrest, Kai confessed to the police that he had met Joseph Galfy at Times Square. Galfy approached him and offered him food and a place to stay for the night. The next morning, he woke up with a metallic taste in his mouth and semen dripping from his face. He realized that he had been drugged and raped. Galfy dropped him off at the train station that morning, but by the evening, when he realized that he did not have a place to stay, he called Galfy and went back to his place. That night, after dinner and drinks, he remembered waking up and finding Galfy trying to force himself on him. He attacked Galfy with his hands and elbowed him, though he seemed unsure about how the situation had unfolded. By studying the crime scene, the police were confident that it was not an act of self-defense. Kai did not have any defense wounds on his body, considering how he claimed to have been attacked by Galfy. The medical examiner further confirmed that Galfy’s head was stomped on by the murderer. Kai was believed to be interested in hunting down sexual predators and bringing vigilante justice. He might have perceived Galfy as a predator, though that remains debatable. Caleb McGillvary, aka Kai, is currently in a maximum-security prison in New Jersey, where he is serving his sentence of 57 years. McGillvary’s appeal of conviction was rejected by the Superior Court of New Jersey in 2021.

Kai, who believed in living home-free, is currently locked in a prison cell. Once an internet celebrity, Kai is living his worst nightmare. “The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” reminds the audience of the importance of understanding a person before celebrating them. The Internet can make or break one’s career, and even though Kai had the opportunity to live a different lifestyle, he was never truly interested in it. He wanted to live the carefree life he was living, a life devoid of responsibilities. Kai was, of course, a troubled human being, and the lifestyle he was living made it worse. While the world wanted to believe in a selfless, home-free hitchhiker, at the end of the day, he turned out to be a hatchet-wielding murderer.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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