Former internet hero Kai is star witness and scapegoat in attempted murder trial
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Action News has a new twist on the bizarre attack on a PG&E crew that drew international attention to Fresno. A homeless hitchhiker who became an internet star is both star witness for the prosecution, and scapegoat for the defense.
Kai the Hitchhiker was widely recognized as a hatchet-wielding hero after the February crash that seriously injured a PG&E worker.
He caught a ride with Jett McBride, and then bashed McBride over the head during the chaos after they crashed into the electric crew.
Kai won't be coming to testify at the trial that started Monday because he's in a New Jersey jail, charged with killing a 73-year-old man.
Jurors will hear his testimony from an earlier hearing in this case, but the judge won't let them hear about the so-called "Homefree Hitchhiker's" current home.
The terrible moment played out right before Nelson Pereira's eyes, but there was nothing the PG&E worker could do to save his friends and co-workers.
"[I] observed the vehicle go right by me as I'm yelling 'hey hey hey" trying to get his attention that was driving the vehicle and my fellow co-workers and observed the vehicle drive right by me and collide with the bucket truck and Rayshawn," Pereira said.
Rayshawn Neely was pinned between his own bucket truck and a stranger's car that had just veered right into him and his crew. What happened next turned a hitchhiker in the car into an Internet superhero.
The stranger was Jett McBride, a man from the state of Washington with no history of violence. After the crash, McBride rushed out and started grabbing Neely while screaming about God and heaven.
Caleb Lawrence McGillivary, who prefers to go by the name "Kai", grabbed a hatchet from his backpack and hit McBride over the head three times. Kai later told police McBride's religious ranting started right before he drove into the PG&E crew.
"He says 'I've come to realize I'm Jesus Christ and I can get away with anything I want to,' prosecutor Becky Gong said Kai told police about his conversation with McBride.
Kai's strange story of his own heroic act landed him on Jimmy Kimmel Live and all over YouTube. But witnesses at the scene say the PG&E crew members were the true heroes.
The hatchet attack didn't stop McBride, but Neely's co-workers subdued him. They also corralled Kai, who was running away from the scene after smashing McBride. And in a jailhouse phone conversation with his wife, McBride revealed one reason why the supposed hero may have been trying to escape.
"'The kid jerked the wheel,'" defense attorney Scott Baly says McBride told his wife. "'You don't understand.' And his wife said in the conversation you'll hear, "Who jerked the wheel, Kai did."
Kai's murder charge can't be brought up because the judge says it is just a charge, not a conviction. As for the victim, Rayshawn Neely, friends said he is able to walk again, but he's still working on a full physical recovery. He is expected to testify later in the trial.
fresno, fresno county, pg&e, crimetracker, local, corin hoggard
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