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This Viral Hitchhiker Is on Trial for Murder Right Now

Kai McGillivary is accused of killing a 73-year-old lawyer in his home.

Caleb "Kai" McGillvary Caleb "Kai" McGillvary, 24, center, is taken by Union County sheriff's officers to jail in Elizabeth, N.J., . McGillvary is charged with beating 73-year-old lawyer Joseph Galfy to death after they met in New York City. Galfy's body was found in his Clark, N.J., home. McGillvary, who gained Internet fame as "Kai, the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker," says he's not guilty of the murder chargeNJ Killing Hatchet Hitchhiker, Elizabeth, USA

Caleb "Kai" McGillvary, 24, center, is taken by Union County sheriff's officers to jail in Elizabeth, N.J., on May 20th 2013

Mel Evans/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Back in 2013, a five-minute interview with a man who was identified as Kai, the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker, went wildly viral. In the clip, the man who identifies himself as Kai — a frizzy-haired skateboard kid with his hair tied back in a bandana — describes using a hatchet to save two women from being attacked while hitchhiking in Fresno, California. “I fuckin’ ran up behind him with a hatchet,” the hitchhiker told the interviewer. “Smash! Smash! Smash!” he told a local news reporter at Fresno station KMPH. “It was fuckin’ gnarly man. It was like the biggest wave I’ve ever ridden.”

Of course, the interview went wildly viral, racking up millions of views and earning the man who only identified himself as Kai an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live. But it didn’t take long for Kai (whose last name is McGillivary) to become the world’s least surprising Milkshake Duck ever when he was arrested and charged with the murder of 73-year-old lawyer Joseph Gafry. Now, nearly six years later, McGillivary is finally standing trial for the murder in a court in New Jersey.

According to an extensive report in the Washington Post, McGillivary was a drifter who was traveling cross country when he met Galfy in Times Square. Galfy offered to let McGillivary stay at his house in New Jersey, where Galfy was later found beaten to death. Authorities later arrested McGillivary at a Starbucks in Philadelphia.

In court last year, McGillivary pleaded innocent, claiming that he had acted in self-defense and that Galfy had drugged and sexually assaulted him the night before the murder. While in prison, he has filed multiple motions accusing the police of violating his right to due process by destroying and ignoring evidence in Galfy’s house that suggested he had been sexually assaulted.

It’s unclear why it’s taken so long for McGillivary to stand trial: in an interview with NJ.com, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment when asked why he had not stood trial yet, although McGillivary’s mother, Sheryl Stromberg, expressed consternation that her son had been in jail for so long. “You don’t treat an innocent person the way he’s been treated. I mean, who ever the person is, you don’t treat them like that,” she said.

While many fans of McGillivary’s YouTube video initially rallied in his defense, operating a Change.org petition and a GoFundMe page petitioning for funds for his legal team, in the years since the video went viral such support seems to have dissipated, according to NJ.com. 

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