Kentucky Man Sues Netflix for Putting His Picture in True Crime Film

By Taylor Rice

The Netflix true crime documentary “The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” premiered in January of 2023. The documentary tells the story of Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, also known as “Kai the Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker,” a man who had gone viral after saving a woman from harm by defending her from an assailant with a hatchet. His rising stardom came to an abrupt halt after he was arrested months later on suspicion of murder. After years of legal proceedings, he was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to serve almost 60 years in prison. 

In the film, a picture of a man named Taylor Hazlewood is shown. The image is from his instagram account, and Hazlewood first learned he was part of the documentary when his friends who’d seen the film started asking him about it shortly after its release.

Hazelwood’s picture is shown in the documentary with the audio saying, “stone-cold killer” and a text caption saying, “You can never trust anyone,” according to the lawsuit. It was shown twice in the film alongside pictures of Caleb Lawrence McGillavery.

The picture of Hazelwood with the hatchet was taken in June 2019 while he was spending time with a friend. Hazelwood saw the Hatchet and it reminded him of his favorite childhood book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Hazelwood decided to take a picture posing with the hatchet, and post it on his Instagram account. 

According to the court records, “After receiving many more questions about his involvement with the film, and watching the film himself, Hazelwood became aware of how damaging this unauthorized publicity was.” The lawsuit declares that the documentary tarnished Hazelwood’s reputation, because people may assume the worst when seeing his image in a crime documentary. It states, “The use causes Hazelwood a constant fear of losing future employment or relationships because of people believing he is dangerous or untrustworthy.”

Hazelwood filed his lawsuit on Monday, claiming that the documentary portrays him in a “Sinister and defamatory light” and has damaged his reputation by using his picture alongside a convicted murderer. Hazelwood is seeking more than $1 million as compensation. 

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