On January 10th, Netflix will be premiering a new documentary called The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, which tells the story of Kai, a homeless surfer who became an internet sensation in 2013 after using a hatchet to defend a stranger from an attacker.
The incident, which was captured on video and garnered millions of views, showed Kai, whose real name is Caleb McGillvary, intervening when a driver confessed to raping a 14-year-old girl, expressed racist views, and hit a Black pedestrian before attacking a bystander.
However, the documentary goes beyond the viral incident and explores the aftermath of Kai's fame, including his mental instability and troubled upbringing. Friends and family members describe Kai as prone to fits of rage and speak of his challenging childhood, including being locked in a room by his mother and being sent into foster care after starting a fire in the family home.
The film also delves into the circumstances surrounding the hatchet attack, including Kai's admission to lacing the attacker's joint with drugs and the subsequent investigation into the death of a 73-year-old lawyer, Joseph Galfy, whose body was found with head injuries and with Kai's name and number written on a piece of paper nearby.
Despite his viral fame, Kai struggled to adjust to the sudden attention and financial windfall that came with it. According to The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, he was overwhelmed by the media vultures who descended on him, ignoring all signs of his mental instability.
Some of these media figures, such as the human-interest researcher for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the reality TV brand manager, took advantage of Kai's vulnerability for their own gain. Kai's cousin, Jeremy McGillvary Wolfe, speaks about Kai's struggles in the documentary and expresses his belief that Kai had mental issues.
Wolfe describes how Kai's mother wouldn't allow him to play outside with other children and often locked him in a room with blankets covering the windows. This, combined with other incidents in his childhood, such as starting a fire in the family home, led to Kai being sent into foster care at the age of 13.
Despite his challenging upbringing, Wolfe believes that Kai's actions in the hatchet attack were out of character and that he simply snapped under the pressure of the situation. Kai was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2019 and given a 57-year term in a maximum-security facility.
He has continued to contest the judgment; however, his most recent appeal was rejected in August 2021. He must serve at least 85% of his sentence. Kai was called to as a "powder keg of explosive rage" and a "a cold-blooded, calculated, callous killer" by the judge during the sentencing.