This week Netflix offered another true crime documentary, “The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker.” It tells the weird tale of Kai Lawrence (his real name is Caleb McGillvary) who went from viral celebrity to convicted murderer in less than a year. It is a very disturbing story, and not just because of the murder. What I found most illuminating if not surprising was the eager exploitation of an obviously disturbed young man with violent tendencies by media types who gave no thought to the likely consequences of their actions.
In 2013, McGillvary, aka “Kai” was a homeless pot-smoking vagrant, living on the streets and depending on the kindness of strangers. Hitchhiking in the Fresno (California) area, he was picked up by Jett McBride, who, Kai revealed later, he had given a cigarette laced with a hallucinogenic drug. Perhaps as a result, McBride ran down a pedestrian When a woman rushed to the pedestrian’s aid, McBride, apparently bonkers, assaulted her. This is where “hatchet-wielding” comes in: Kai got out of the car and stopped McBride’s attack by hitting him three times over the head with a hatchet he had in his bag.
Yes, he became a hero by striking a man with a hatchet. The woman felt Kai had saved her life, and a local reporter on the scene quickly grabbed the long-haired, handsome young man for an interview. The reporter was obviously amused and delighted by Kai’s spontaneity and affinity for the camera. At one point McGillvary turned directly to viewers and delivered a well-rehearsed call for all human beings to be “respected for who they are.” The reporter was charmed, even though anyone with open eyes should have known then that they were witnessing the act of seasoned grifter. Continue reading