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Murder charge stuns some fans of 'Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker'

By Michael Pearson and Michael Martinez, CNN
May 19, 2013 -- Updated 1556 GMT (2356 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "The investigation came together very quickly," the prosecutor says
  • Caleb Lawrence McGillvary is jailed for allegedly killing a New Jersey lawyer
  • Prosecutors suggest the pair had relationship; McGillvary felt assaulted, a post suggests
  • He gained Internet fame as a hitchhiker who came to the aid of two under attack

(CNN) -- To New Jersey prosecutors, Caleb Lawrence McGillvary is simply a murder suspect, and a dangerous one at that.

But to at least some of the thousands of fans who know him as a hero for using a hatchet to stop another man's attack on two people in Fresno, California, accusations that the long-haired homeless hitchhiker bludgeoned a 73-year-old lawyer to death are unfathomable.

"I'm having a hard time seeing Kai as a cold-blooded killer," one of his fans posted on his Facebook page Friday. "I hope they really listen to him and do a proper investigation."

Another fan started trying to raise money for a legal defense fund. As of midday Friday, it had collected $66.

Hitchhiker's hatchet stops crazed driver

McGillvary, who after the Fresno incident became known on the Internet as "Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker," is accused of killing attorney Joseph Galfy Jr. at the lawyer's Clark, New Jersey, home.

Authorities who went to Galfy's house on a welfare check after he failed to turn up at work found him Monday -- severely beaten, dressed only in socks and underwear.

Philadelphia police arrested McGillvary on Thursday evening, hours after authorities identified him as a suspect and were then "flooded with calls from around the country," Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow said.

One of those calls came in around 5:45 p.m. from a man whose neighbor said she'd dropped McGillvary off at a New Jersey train station earlier Thursday. Around the same time that info came in, another came in saying a worker at a Starbucks in Philadelphia had just spotted a man who looked like McGillvary.

Police spotted McGillvary at a nearby Greyhound bus terminal minutes later and arrested him without incident, Romankow said.

"The investigation came together very quickly," the prosecutor said.

Galfy and McGillvary had exchanged text messages in recent days, and investigators know McGillvary spent Sunday night at Galfy's home, Romankow said.

While authorities say they don't know a possible motive, investigators believe McGillvary and Galfy had a sexual relationship, Romankow said.

"There has been some indication of that on Facebook," the prosecutor said.

A post Tuesday to McGillvary's Facebook page seems to suggest the writer felt he had been sexually assaulted and asked his fans, "What would you do?"

CNN isn't able to verify who posted the message.

McGillvary is being held in Philadelphia pending extradition to New Jersey, Romankow said. Once transferred, we will be held on $3 million bond pending a first court appearance, the prosecutor said.

McGillvary received national attention after CNN affiliate KMPH interviewed him about a February incident in which he had hitched a ride with a man who suddenly proclaimed to be Jesus. The man then rammed a utility worker on the side of the road before grabbing a woman who was trying to help.

McGillvary's Facebook page says that "Kai saved a woman's life by cleaving a man in the head, with a hatchet, after he had just hit someone with his car."

With long hair sweeping out of a bandana, McGillvary provided a dramatic account of the rescue for the station, demonstrating how he wielded the hatchet against the rampaging motorist.

"Smash! Smash! Sa-mash!" he told the affiliate.

The female bystander, apparently not injured, confirmed the incident in an interview with KMPH.

The utility worker underwent surgery for non-life-threatening injuries, and the driver, who stood more than 6 feet tall and weighed at least 300 pounds, was arrested, the affiliate said.

McGillvary's story was featured on "The Colbert Report" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Romankow acknowledged the Internet fame surrounding McGillvary, but said that means nothing when it comes to the accusations he is now facing.

"This man was well-known. That doesn't mean he did not or could not become involved in a crime," Romankow told reporters before McGillvary's arrest. "We believe he has murdered someone -- an attorney by the way who was in the county, was well respected, well regarded for well over 40 years."

"I believe that everyone is a little safer with this person off the streets," the prosecutor said after McGillvary's capture.

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