CLARK, NJ — A man who gained internet fame as “Kai the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker,” and three months later killed a Clark attorney has been sentenced to 57 years in state prison, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office announced in a May 30 press release.
Caleb “Kai” McGillvary, 30, must serve at least 85 percent of that term before the possibility of parole under the terms set down by state Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch, the UCPO said.
McGillvary was convicted in April of first-degree murder in connection with the 2013 beating death of 73-year-old Joseph Galfy Jr. following several hours of jury deliberation and a four-week trial.
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., by 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.
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 several 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.
But Dr. Junaid Shaikh of the Division of the County Medical Examiner testified that the victim, who was 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 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 multiple fractures to the neck, skull, and ribs, plus severe contusions, abrasions and bleeding; these injuries contradicted McGillvary’s self-defense claim.
Kirsch read the list of injuries documented in the autopsy report into the record prior to sentencing Thursday, noting that many of the wounds occurred before Galfy died.
Galfy “was helpless, prone on the ground, and in agony,” Kirsch said, calling the crime “a byproduct of unrestrained rage.”
Despite McGillvary having no substantive prior criminal record, Kirsch found that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors in the case, adding that a “strong and unmistakable message” must be sent by a lengthy prison term.
“You are crafty, you are cunning, you are disingenuous, and you are manipulative,” Kirsch told McGillvary, describing numerous ways in which the defendant attempted to cover his tracks after the killing, including cutting off his distinctive long hair. “And when you become eligible for parole, you will still be younger than Mr. Galfy was when you murdered him.”
“And this defendant shows no remorse, he takes no responsibility,” Peterson added. “Everything about him is self-serving.”