CLARK, NJ — A Canadian drifter who gained internet fame as “Kai, the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker” has been convicted of killing a prominent Clark attorney in his home a little less than six years ago, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office announced in an April 24 release.
Caleb “Kai” McGillvary, 30, was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the beating death of 73-year-old Joseph Galfy Jr. following several hours of jury deliberation across two days and a four-week trial before state Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch, the release said.
As previously reported by LocalSource, McGillvary came to the public’s attention in February 2013 when he intervened in an attack on a woman in Fresno, Calif., beating the assailant back with the blunt end of a hatchet.
Three months later, on May 13, he was identified as a suspect after Clark police responded to Galfy’s home on Starlight Drive in Clark to find the victim’s partially clothed body prone beside his bed, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Scott Peterson and Jillian Reyes, who prosecuted the case.
Large quantities of surveillance footage, digital cell phone data, and other evidence led investigators to identify McGillvary as a suspect, Peterson and Reyes said. McGillvary was arrested in Philadelphia three days after the killing when a barista working at a coffee shop there recognized him and contacted police.
The investigation revealed that the victim and defendant first met in New York City’s Times Square, about a day and a half before Galfy’s death.
McGillvary claimed self-defense at trial, saying in a letter posted online that he was fending off “a drug-facilitated sexual assault” by Galfy.
However, Dr. Junaid Shaikh of the Division of the County Medical Examiner testified that Galfy, who stood 5-foot-5, weighed 230 pounds, and had a stent in his chest due to a heart condition, sustained numerous serious blunt-force injuries to his face, head, neck, chest, and arms, including three skull fractures, four broken ribs, and severe contusions, abrasions, and bleeding — injuries that contradicted McGillvary’s self-defense claim, the prosecutors said.
Furthermore, Peterson and Reyes highlighted inconsistencies between the statement McGillvary gave to investigators shortly after his arrest and comments he made while testifying at trial, and also noted that McGillvary had cut his long hair and fled the state after the murder.
Before his death, Galfy was a partner with the Rahway-based law firm of Kochanski, Baron and Galfy, and was an Army veteran who had reached the rank of major while serving from 1965 to 1970.
“This was a brutal, vicious, senseless crime, and we are pleased that the interests of justice have been served,” said Michael Monahan, who was the acting county prosecutor at the time of the conviction. “We sincerely thank the jury for their service and hope that today’s verdict brings some measure of solace to Mr. Galfy’s family, friends, and loved ones.”
Monahan has since been replaced by First Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Davenport.
Sentencing has been scheduled for June 13 before Kirsch, at which time McGillvary will face a term of up to life in state prison.