A former Tofino housekeeper who gained Internet celebrity as a homeless, hatchet-wielding hitchhiker earlier this year was arrested Thursday for allegedly beating a New Jersey lawyer to death, authorities said.
Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, who achieved fame as “Kai the Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” in a viral news video, was arrested at a Greyhound bus station in Philadelphia, the Associated Press reported. The 24-year-old is accused of killing 73-year-old Joseph Galfy Jr., who was found dead in his home earlier this week.
McGillvary, whose nickname is Kai, gained notoriety after appearing in a Fresno, Calif., news report about using a hatchet to stop an attack on a California utility worker in February.
Last summer, McGillvary worked as a housekeeper at Tofino’s Cox Bay Beach Resort for three weeks before he was fired, said a co-worker who asked not to be named.
“He wasn’t doing his job,” the co-worker said Thursday, adding he was “obnoxious.”
Although McGillvary has been identified as being from West Virginia, the co-worker said he told her he was from Thunder Bay.
She said McGillvary spent about two months in Tofino, but she didn’t know if he worked anywhere else.
“I don’t know him know him, but everyone in this town feels like we know him now because there’s so many stories about him,” said Tofino resident Cam Young, a chef at the Spotted Bear Bistro.
According to Young, a popular story involves McGillvary sitting down to an hour-long dinner at Shelter Restaurant with a table full of strangers.
“That’s just the kind of guy he was. He had no idea who they were, and they had no idea who he was. But he sat there as if they were best friends.”
With a mane of wild hair, loud American accent and omnipresent “super-bright snowboard jacket,” McGillvary was easily spotted around Tofino. Often, it was for all the wrong reasons.
“He probably got kicked out of every drinking establishment in this town,” Young said.
He ran with a crowd that was known for its drug use, Young said. Transients who arrive in Tofino to work for summer, only to leave when the tourist season slows down, are common in Tofino.
McGillvary reportedly lived in the bush at Poole’s Land, a 17-acre property that has become something of a live-off-the-land co-operative. Some residents on Poole’s Land live in treehouses, others in buses and makeshift houses.
In February, McGillvary said he was riding in a car with a man who veered into the utility worker, got out of the car, walked up to the utility worker and allegedly said, “I am Jesus and I am here to take you home.”
The Fresno Bee reported that McGillvary said he then pulled a hatchet from his backpack and struck the driver in the head several times to subdue him.
The nearly six-minute “hatchet” news interview featuring McGillvary has been viewed almost four million times on YouTube. His sudden popularity led to McGillvary making an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
On Tuesday, McGillvary wrote on what is believed to be his Facebook page: “what would you do if you woke up with a groggy head, metallic taste in your mouth, in a stranger[’]s house … ”
He suggested he had been drugged and raped, but did not specify when or where this had taken place.
New Jersey prosecutor Theodore Romankow said McGillvary is being held on $3-million bail. Romankow said McGillvary met Galfy on Saturday in Times Square, then spent at least two nights at his home on a cul-de-sac in Clark, 32 kilometres west of New York.
— With files from The Associated Press