Kai the Hitchhiker sues Netflix, Fresno TV station and music venue over true crime documentary

Associated Press photos

Caleb McGillvary hasn’t had good things to say about Netflix since it announced the released of the true-crime documentary “The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” back in December.

McGillvary, also known as Kai the Hitchhiker, is at the center of said documentary and claimed when it came out that the company was “ruthlessly exploiting a hero’s life story for money.”

He has now filed a lawsuit to that effect.

In a February filing in a California district court, McGillvary — currently serving 50-plus years in prison for a murder conviction — named Netflix as one of dozens of defendants he claims stole intellectual property, interfered with business dealings and stripped him “of his heroic title for their own selfish gain.”

Who’s named in Kai’s Netflix lawsuit?

Among the other defendants are Fresno news station KMPH Fox 26 and the Fresno music venue Fulton 55, whose general manager is also named in the suit.


The filing, obtained by The Bee via email, is 196 mostly hand-written pages and lays out a timeline of events from McGillvary’s intervening to save two people from a violent attack in Fresno’s Tower District in 2013 to the viral stardom and eventual fall that followed.

There are some other interesting details in the filing, including about the hatchet “smash” itself, in which McGillvary struck Jett Simmons McBride three time in the head.

It is described here in some detail.

“It was a direct blow and plaintiff could feel McBride’s skull through the handle. The blade sunk so deep that the suction almost pulled it out of the plaintiff’s hand when McBride collapsed.”

McBride survived and was ultimately found to be legally insane at the time of the incident.

Also included in the filing is an admission that McGillvary had been raped as a teenager and suffers from PTSD, which he says was triggered (and ignored by media and others) during and following the initial attack.

The Smash, Smash, Smash interviews

The filing also show how McGillvary views his now-famous interview with then-KMPH reporter Jessob Reisbeck. In the filing, the interview is referred to as “troubadour performance,” created and performed to describe and reenact the events. As such, McGillvary is the “sole author and inventive mind of his performance” and is entitled to “an equitable accounting from KMPH for any use or resulting revenue,” according to the suit.

The filing lists out all of McGillvary’s various claims in a series of subheads such as “The Smash, Smash, Smash Interviews,” “The Jimmy Kimmel Experience” and “Fulton 55’s Fraud and Slander.”

In the latter, McGillvary claims that during a performance at the venue in April 2013 management threatened to have him deported “back to Canada,” and following the show defamed and disparaged him with other venues in town.

According to the filing, McGillvary lost at least a dozen requests for performances and was not asked to perform in Fresno again.

The damages from these actions, calculated at the time the fraud was discovered, are estimated at $400 and 20% of liquor sales, or $1,000 per show at three shows a week from April 5, 2013, to Jan. 10, 2023, when the documentary aired. According to the filing, McGillvary is entitled to more than $1.3 million.

The complaint requests a jury trial.

The Bee on Monday reached out to KMPH and Fulton 55 for comment.