A snooping passenger alerted police to the rape of two children after watching a phone-text exchange
August 5, 2017
A NOSEY airline passenger was peeking at the SMS messaging of a man in the row in front of her. What she saw saved two children, and could send a man and woman to jail for a long time.
San Jose media is reporting the woman passenger had been able to read the SMS texts being exchanged by Michael Kellar on a flight from Seattle to San Jose International Airport earlier this week because he was angling it away from passengers sitting alongside, and was using an enlarged font.
What she saw prompted her to use her own smartphone to photograph the screen as evidence, and quietly alert cabin crew.
“In my eyes she is our hero,” a San Jose police spokesman has said. She prevented a “catastrophic” and “horrific” attack.
San Jose Police say the aircrew notified the airport to have authorities ready to arrest the 56-year-old when the aircraft landed.
“The conversations were very particular in regards to sex acts that were to be performed on ... children,” a San Jose police spokesman said, describing the text messages as “disturbing”.
“Some of the sex acts talked about not only molesting children, but performing bestiality.”
When confronted by police, Kellar dismissed the texts as a sexual fantasy game.
But investigators quickly used the texts and photos being exchanged to trace the suspect a who was to allegedly help carry out Kellar’s sexual instructions.
Gail Burnworth, 50, of Tacoma, was arrested by FBI and Crimes Against Children Task Force officers.
Two children, aged five and seven, were found with her and quickly judged to be the victims of the planned sexual assault. They have been placed in protective custody.
Burnworth was a childcare provider, police said, and had “some type of dating relationship” with Kellar.
Kellar has been charged with two counts of attempted child molestation and two counts of solicitation of a sex crime. Burnworth has been charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, rape of a child in the first degree and dealing in sexually-explicit child imagery.
Both face Federal child pornography charges.
“If it wasn’t for that young lady (passenger’s) actions, another sexual assault would have occurred,” a police spokesman said. “That citizen happened to be a pre-school teacher ... For her, her kids are her life. And because the messages involve children, that got her attention even more.”
“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” San Jose sex-crimes Detective Nick Jourdenais added. “She gets on a plane, a normal citizen minding her business. A couple of hours later, she’s intervening on quite possibly the most traumatic thing children can go through. This was life-altering for them.”
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