‘Kai the Hitchhiker’ Sentenced to 57 Years in Prison for Killing 73-Year-Old Man

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
May 30, 2019USshare
‘Kai the Hitchhiker’ Sentenced to 57 Years in Prison for Killing 73-Year-Old Man
A jury found Caleb "Kai" McGillvary, 30, guilty of first-degree murder on April 24, 2019. He was sentenced on May 30 to 57 years in prison. (Union County Prosecutor's Office)

The 30-year-old man best known as “Kai the Hitchhiker” was sentenced to 57 years in prison on May 30, about one month after being convicted of killing a New Jersey man.

A jury found Caleb McGillvary guilty of first-degree murder, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael Monahan said in a press release on April 24. He faced up to life in prison.

McGillvary killed Joseph Galfy on May 13, 2013. McGillvary said that he murdered the lawyer in self-defense after he woke up to Galfy sexually assaulting him.

“This was a brutal, vicious, senseless crime, and we are pleased that the interests of justice have been served,” Monahan said in a statement. “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.”

McGillvary spent six years in prison awaiting trial and will get credit for those years, reported the New Jersey Advance Media. He will be eligible for parole in 2061 after completing approximately 85 percent of his sentence.

During the sentencing, state Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch said he handed down the lengthy sentence because McGillvary was likely to commit additional crimes if released, noting his transient lifestyle.

James Galfy, brother to the victim, read a statement to the court and talked about losing his sibling.

“We all lost someone we can depend on,” he said, noting his daughters enjoyed crabbing with his brother and that Joseph Galfy gave them crucial legal advice.

McGillvary defended himself, telling the court he had met “tens of thousands of people” while traveling and no others had accused him of hurting them.

“The hundreds of people I’ve stayed with … now question ‘Why didn’t Kai hurt us?’ because this trial didn’t answer those questions, but my character does,” McGillvary said. “My character for helping people is why people were safe with me.”

McGillvary said that he hit Galfy after waking up to the lawyer sexually assaulting him but assistant prosecutors Jillian Reyes and Scott Peterson said that the man’s injuries, including three skull fractures, showed the murder was “so far from self-defense, it’s not even funny,” reported the Advance Media.

Junaid Shaikh of the Division of the County Medical Examiner testified that Galfy sustained serious blunt-force injuries that were not consistent with self-defense.

According to testimony at the trial, the hitchhiker met Galfy in Times Square and the lawyer invited him to sleep at his house. McGillvary did so and after visiting a friend, went back to the house to stay again. The murder took place on May 12.

Galfy was found dead in his bedroom during a wellness check the next day and McGillvary was arrested at a Greyhound bus stop in Philadelphia on May 16. He had fled Galfy’s house and cut his long hair.”

McGillvary became an Internet sensation in February 2013 when he told a local television station that he saved two people while hitchhiking in Fresno, California, by smashing their attacker in the back of the head with a hatchet.

After telling the story, McGillivary told Vice News that he grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family and left to live on a Native American reservation. He said he’d spent the two years prior to 2013 driving around with a man and “living in sailboats, houseboats, going out surfing on islands, hopping in cars with people I didn’t know, and traveling the country. Jumping off cliffs into lakes, going to music festivals, and playing music in parks. Just random, spontaneous awesome all the time.”

He said the viral interview had a positive impact on his life.

“Yeah, it’s been really excellent, I’ve met a lot of cool people who have been reaching out through the internet, mostly contacting me through Facebook, there is about 10,000 messages in my inbox from people all across the country. There’s people from eco-communities, there’s people from surfing communities, there’s people from Rainbow Gatherings, who just got classified as a gang by the Obama administration, who have invited me to come and meet with them,” he said.

“I’ve largely succeeded in any effort to hide myself. I disappeared inside the Emerald Triangle for a couple weeks even.”

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