Update (May 20, 2016): This week marks the three-year anniversary since Caleb Lawrence McGillvary— the onetime Internet folk hero known as “Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker”—was arrested and charged with beating a 73-year-old lawyer to death in New Jersey. The freewheeling drifter, now 27, remains behind bars inside the state’s Union County Jail awaiting trial. It also appears that many of his online supporters, whom Vocativ profiled in December 2013, have since vanished.
He’s been labeled a freewheeling drifter, a folk hero for the digital age and an accused killer. And now, after 15 months behind bars, the man known as “Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker” may soon also be known as a prison poet.
The voice of the onetime Internet phenomenon has emerged from inside New Jersey’s Union County Jail to lay his soul bare and reflect upon the universe. During a recorded phone call with supporters last week, Kai—whose real name is Caleb Lawrence McGillvary—broke into a series of rhyming couplets.
“I want to read you a poem about everything I believe in,” says the 25-year-old bard. “Here it goes. Here goes nothing.”
We the ocean bathed in light
Dive bodies of heavenly height
Defuse the souls of every star
To earth’s own molten iron bar
Salty shimmer through stormy eye
Shines a message to the sky
Here beside me just for tonight
Gemini sits by candlelight
Nervous system not so tense
Due to Saturn’s influence
The moon pulls at our salty eyes
As sunshine’s will to hypnotize
As above so be below
But any new intentions show
The shooting star appeared to be you
But now I don’t know what to do
Creation speaks creator’s voice
We show ourselves with every choice
Kai’s star turn came in February 2013 after he clobbered a maniac driver with an axe while thumbing a ride through California, and then offered the world a profanity-laced retelling of the story, which was captured by KPMH News. For the next four months, he rode a wave of Internet fame, landing an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live and crisscrossing the country to stay with strangers drawn to Kai’s sauntering spirit. (Full disclosure: Kai nearly slept on my couch in Brooklyn, but my now-wife and our roommate said no fucking way.)
But the good times came to a sudden end that May when Kai was accused of beating a 73-year-old attorney to death in New Jersey during an alleged weekend romp. While he hinted that he had been drugged and raped by the victim, Joseph Galfy Jr., a grand jury indicted Kai for murder in November, and he has been in jail ever since.
A judge is expected to set the date for Kai’s murder trial on Sept. 8. Kai turns 26 next week.