Fresno hitchhiker Kai arrested in N.J. homicide

The Fresno BeeMay 16, 2013 

Caleb Lawrence McGillvary (aka Kai Lawrence, Caleb Kai Lawrence and Kai Nicodemus) is pictured in this photo released by New Jersey's Union County Prosecutor’s Office. According to the Prosecutor's Office website, "authorities know that McGillvary has cut his hair in an attempt to alter his appearance, and was last seen at a light rail station in Haddonfield, N.J. area."

From hero and Internet sensation to murder suspect, the spotlight has shifted quickly and not in a good way for the man known as Kai.

Kai, whose real name is Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, was the toast of the Internet in February when his tale of rescuing a utility worker in Fresno went viral. But on Thursday he was arrested on suspicion of the beating death of a 73-year-old man in Clark, N.J.

McGillvary, or Kai, became a household name on Feb. 1 after hitchhiking through Fresno in a car driven by 6-foot-4, 290 pound Jett Simmons McBride. McBride slammed into two PG&E workers and then reportedly got out of the vehicle and assaulted one of the workers, Rayshawn Neely.

"I am Jesus and I am here to take you home," McBride reportedly said. He appeared in court Thursday during a routine hearing.

GALLERY: Kai the hitchhiker testifies at Jett McBride court hearing

Enter Kai, who said he ran to the aid of Neely and a woman who was trying to stop the attack and then struck McBride several times with a hatchet.

"Smash, smash, Sa--MASH!" as McGillvary described it in a YouTube video that has nearly 4 million views. The video charmed viewers and won them over to Kai, who said he was "homefree. (homeless)" and "no matter what you've done, you deserve respect. ... No one can ever take that away from you."

There followed an appearance on the late-night show "Jimmy Kimmel Live," videos of Kai as a musician, and appearances at several music venues in Fresno.

McGillvary resurfaced Thursday when the Union County, N.J., Prosecutor's Office said he was being charged with killing Joseph Galfy Jr., a Clark, N.J., attorney found dead Monday.

Galfy was discovered in his home wearing only his underwear and socks after officers went there to check on his welfare. The cause of death was blunt-force trauma, said prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.

Galfy's body was found two days after authorities said he met McGillvary on Saturday in Times Square in Manhattan, then spent at least two nights at Galfy's home on a cul-de-sac in Clark, 20 miles west of New York City.

McGillvary's movements after that included two trips to meet a fan in Asbury Park, N.J., a trip to Philadelphia and another to Glassboro in southern New Jersey. He was considered armed and dangerous before his capture.

McGillvary was arrested on a murder warrant at a Philadelphia bus station, his long hair now cut short. He was being held on $3 million bail. No information was available as to whether any weapon was recovered at Galfy's home.

In a Facebook entry posted Tuesday, McGillvary intimated that he was drugged and raped but does not say where or when the incident took place, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.

"What would you do if you woke up with a groggy head, metallic taste in your mouth, in a strangers house ... walked to the mirror and seen ... dripping from the side of your face from your mouth, and started wretching (sic), realizing that someone had drugged, raped, and (had sex with you)? what would you do?" it reads.

Deborah Girard-Gross, who represents Jett McBride, said that Thursday's events make McGillvary's testimony less credible and helps McBride.

"I think our case only gets better from here," she said.

McBride told her that McGillvary was the one who pulled the wheel toward the PG&E workers, an issue she raised in a February court hearing. "Mr. McBride has maintained the whole time that he didn't intentionally attack Rayshawn."

Much less was known about McGillvary, she said.

"Clearly, there is something about the guy,"she said. "The way he was defensive when he testified led me to believe there was something more underneath the skin than just the laid back, 'I'm homefree,' surfer dude."

The Fresno County District Attorney's Office prosecution of McBride has not changed, said Sonia De La Rosa, law office administrator for the District Attorney's Office.

Girard-Gross said the hatchet McGillvary used to beat McBride is part of the evidence in the attempted murder case. McBride has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Fresno musicians react

Derek and Elizabeth Fujitsubo were among several local musicians and promoters who had interactions with McGillvary during his visits to Fresno and spoke about him Thursday morning, before news broke of his arrest.

"I hope this is not his future. I hope this is not his ending," Elizabeth Fujitsubo said. "It really hurt my heart to hear this this morning."

The pair were originally taken by McGillvary after seeing his story on the news. They connected to his message of love and the idea that people are worthwhile no matter where they came from. Also taken by his talent, they connected him to local musicians such as Patrick Contreras and Matt Molten and helped get him booked as a guest on a local benefit show.

But McGillvary's erratic behavior and general demeanor at that show caused them to take down the Facebook page they helped him create, and they severed all ties with him in April.

Omar Nare, a local musician, played with Kai at the benefit but walked off stage during the performance. Later, he posted a Facebook messages decrying Kai's actions at the performance.

Reacting to Thursday morning's news of him being a fugitive, Nare said: "Kai's relaxed attitude after having hacked a person with a hatchet was the first clue. It was admirable that he saved a life and yet he still crossed a dark line as a human. If you can stab or hack another person with a weapon, even in defense, now you know you can stab or hack another person. That realization, coupled with Kai's unstable persona, and the positive reinforcement he received from the media for violence, all helped fuel this tragedy."

Bee reporters Joshua Tehee and Marc Benjamin and the Associated Press contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at jguy@fresnobee.com or at (559) 441-6386.

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