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This is the full story behind Netflix’s new true crime, The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker

Just who exactly is Kai?

TW: One brief mention of rape.

It’s been a while since Netflix released its last true crime – but luckily now we’ve got our fix with The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker. The film’s about as wild as it sounds, as it tells the story of Kai Lawrence, a homeless man who went viral on YouTube, before being convicted of murder just months later.

If you can remember as far back as 2013, you may remember a clip of Kai telling a news reporter about how he rescued a young woman from being attacked. He became a beloved figure almost overnight, as well as the human representation of good, clean, pure vibes.

This wasn’t destined to last, however. And three months after he initially found internet fame, Kai was charged with homicide. The real question is – was it murder, or simply self-defence? This is the entire true story behind Kai, the Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker.

hatchet wielding hitchhiker true story

Photo via Netflix

The backstory of Kai Lawrence, real name Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, is largely unknown. When the world first met him, he was Hitchhiker Kai, giving a unique interview on a Californian news bulletin in 2013.

Wearing all his worldly possessions on his back, Kai described an incident to the reporter in which he had to take down a guy he’d hitched a ride from, because he got out of his car to start attacking a woman. “I was in the passenger side of this fucker’s car,” he recounted in the interview. “He smashed (his car) into this fucking guy right there, pinned him in between that fucking truck… buddy gets out and these two women are trying to help him. (The driver) runs up and he grabs one of them. A guy that big could snap a woman’s neck like a pencil stick.

“So I fucking ran up behind him with a hatchet. Smash, smash, smash!” he continued. The news reporter claimed Kai had saved the woman’s life – he replied, “he’s dead, good.”

netflix true crime

Photo via Netflix

The interview clip quickly started attracting millions of views on YouTube. As it currently stands, a re-upload of the original interview has 3.1 million views and 6,500 comments. Comedians The Gregory Brothers later autotuned the clip and turned it into a song – which now has 11 million views.

Kai’s newfound viral status even led to an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, in true 2013 style. News outlets all over the world wanted a piece of him, and his background as a wandering hitchhiker meant he was a total enigma.

However, on 16th May 2013, everything changed. Kai was arrested for the murder of attorney Joseph Galfy, which happened the night before. To this day, Kai maintains he was lured, drugged and raped by the 73-year-old, after he offered him a place to stay for the night.


Photo via Netflix

Kai was charged with homicide shortly afterwards – but his trial didn’t actually take place until much, much later. On 1st April 2019, he finally took to the stand. Although he chose to represent himself, and maintained his motives throughout the trial, Kai was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to 43 years in prison.

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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