the dark story of Kai, “the hatchet hitchhiker”

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Caleb Lawrence McGillvary in the documentary Kai, the hatchet hitchhiker Netflix

Since January 10, the streaming platform has been offering a new documentary highlighting the resounding journey of a homeless American during the year 2013, from national hero to delinquent.

It’s a story Americans adore, a sort of modern-day tale of a 25-year-old wanderer who became a national hero overnight. On February 1, 2013 in Fresno, California, a man drove his car into an employee of the city’s electric company. “because of his skin color”. The individual of 1.93 meters for nearly 140 kilos then got out of his vehicle to attack another person while trying to strangle him. It took the muscular intervention of this homeless man to save the two victims of the driver. Using a camping hatchet, he neutralized the latter by repeatedly hitting him on the skull.

This story would not have made it beyond the news pages of the local press if it had not taken place in the age of the Internet and social networks. On the spot, Jessob Reisbeck of KMPH had managed to identify “the hitchhiker with the hatchet” and had been the only one to interview him in front of the camera. After an excerpt from this interview was broadcast on the local TV channel where he worked, the journalist had the idea of ​​publishing his entire report on his YouTube channel. Within hours, his video had been viewed hundreds of thousands of times and whoever called himself Kai had become the object of national interest of Americans, especially the media: from appearing on Jimmy Kimmel’s late show to the proposal for a reality show by the producers of “The Kardashian family”, he had had the opportunity to go from the streets to the fortune.

A 57-year prison sentence

But over the weeks, the interest aroused by this particularly unstable young man had diminished. On May 13, 2013, he committed irreparable harm by killing Joseph Galfy, a 73-year-old lawyer who had just taken him in to his home in Clark, New Jersey. Arrested and found guilty, Caleb Lawrence McGillvary (real name) is serving a 57-year sentence in a maximum security prison since his conviction on May 30, 2019. The one who claims to have acted in self-defense after being, according to him, “drugged and raped”had its appeal to the US State Superior Court dismissed in August 2021. “He continues to appeal his judgment”concluded the documentary titled Kai, the hatchet hitchhikeraired since January 10 on Netflix.

In an interview published on his YouTube channel about the genesis of this documentary, journalist Jessob Reisbeck claims to have been in regular contact with Kai throughout its production. But the latter, in an e-mail sent to the site The Tab accuses the streaming platform: « Netflix Exploits Me Ruthlessly. They made a film about my life story before my arrest but refuse to pay me anything for it”.

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