Fresno Beehive

Remember Kai the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker? He’s on trial for murder in New Jersey

Caleb “Kai” McGillvary, 24, is taken by Union County sheriff’s officers to jail in Elizabeth, N.J., Thursday, May 30, 2013. 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 charge. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Caleb “Kai” McGillvary, 24, is taken by Union County sheriff’s officers to jail in Elizabeth, N.J., Thursday, May 30, 2013. 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 charge. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) Associated Press file

After nearly six years, Kai the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker is finally going to trial.

According to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday in the case of Caleb McGillvary, the one-time viral celebrity who in 2013 was accused of murdering a 73-year-old attorney in New Jersey.

Opening statements are likely to happen next week.

For a moment back in 2012, McGillvary was the darling of late-night and local TV and viral video; a personable, if not totally off-kilter hero who saved two people in a stranger-than-fiction encounter while hitchhiking through Fresno’s Tower District. He was even called testify in court about the altercation, in which the driver plowed his car into a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crew.

McGillvary recalled smashing the attacker “in the back of his head with that (expletive) hatchet.” The driver survived and was declared legally insane at the time of the attack. He was sent to a state hospital in 2014.

It was months later that McGillvary was in the news again, this time as the suspect in a murder. McGillvary was accused of killing Joseph Galfy at his home in New Jersey. McGillvary claimed in a Facebook post at the time that he acted in self-defense after being drugged and sexually assaulted.

The case has proceeded slowly.

McGillvary attempted suicide while in custody. There was also a written plea to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and multiple suits and motions filed against authorities in which McGillvary claimed investigators destroyed and/or failed to collect evidence in his case.

Last year, McGillvary’s attorney received a final round of discovery with the additional documents and computer files he needed for the trial to proceed. The delays were “necessary to properly prove his innocence at trial,” his lawyer said at the time.

All the while, McGillvary has gained a core of supporters who follow the case, share memories and get other “Kai” related news via his legal support page on Facebook.

That’s stuff like: The Free Kai Fest, which happened just last month at a bar in Los Angeles, and a lawsuit that McGillvary filed in December against the operators of a YouTube channel who included him in a video of “Top 15 scary people accidentally caught on live TV.”

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