Hitchhiker Kai, arrested in slaying, was recognized by neck tattoo
A neck tattoo on Caleb McGillvary, also known as Kai, was what helped a New Jersey resident lead police to the animated hitchhiker wanted in connection with a slaying, New Jersey prosecutors said Friday.
McGillvary, 24, the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker of “Smash, smash, suh-mash!” fame, was arrested in Philadelphia on Thursday night at a Greyhound Bus stop.
Authorities in Union County, New Jersey, named the couch-crashing drifter as a suspect in the death of New Jersey attorney Joseph Galfy.
Prosecutors said a resident in Cherry Hill saw McGillvary’s photo during a broadcast news story about Galfy’s slaying and recognized him from hours earlier. The resident had seen McGillvary with a neighbor who ended up taking the famed hitchhiker to the train station, prosecutors said.
Once the neighbor found out McGillvary was wanted in connection with a killing, they called police.
Galfy was found dead Monday inside his home on Starlite Drive when officers made a welfare check, Union County prosecutors spokesman John Holl said.
An autopsy determined Galfy died of blunt force trauma.
Officials say Galfy and McGillvary, who was known to live off the kindness of strangers he encountered on his travels, met in New York City’s Times Square on Saturday night and went back to Galfy’s home. Galfy, who was clad in his underwear and socks, was killed sometime Sunday, officials said.
Late Sunday, McGillvary turned up at a bistro in Clark, which is about 20 miles west of New York City, The Times’ Nation Now blog reported.
“He didn’t fit in. You know, walking in at 10 o’clock at night asking for water,” the bistro’s owner, Michael Savas, told New York’s WABC News.
McGillvary was recognized in Philadelphia by a Starbucks employee when he stopped in for a drink, said Philadelphia police officer Christine O’Brien. After he left, the employee called police, who searched the area and found McGillvary at the bus station.
Officials did not say where McGillvary was headed.
A Union County District Attorney official declined to reveal how the hitchhiker was tied to the lawyer’s killing. McGillvary is being held on $3-million bail and will be extradited to New Jersey in the coming days, prosecutors said.
“I am grateful for the overwhelming response and dedicated effort by the public and law enforcement that led to this arrest,” said Union County prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow in a statement. “I believe that everyone is a little safer with this person off the streets.”
McGillvary, also known as Kai Lawrence, Caleb Kai Lawrence and Kai Nicodemus, is well-known on Facebook and YouTube and has traveled the country relying on the generosity of others for lodging, food and transportation.
It was in Fresno that Kai’s meteoric rise to fame via viral video began after he helped a woman who was being attacked. KMPH-TV news captured a memorable interview with Kai in a video that received more than a million hits.
“Smash, smash, SUH-MASH!” was McGillvary’s description of how he swung a blow for justice in Fresno to stop a large driver who allegedly ran over and attacked a PG&E employee.
Stephen Colbert aired the video on his Comedy Central show, adding in his trademark commentary that the young man’s heroics had prompted him to rethink his previous prejudice against hitchhikers.
In a Facebook post that appears to belong to McGillvary, he said he was raped.
“What would you do if you woke up with a groggy head, metallic taste in your mouth, in a strangers house... walked to the mirror and seen [bodily fluid] dripping from the side of your face from your mouth, and started wretching, realizing that someone had drugged, raped you?” he wrote. “What would you do?”