A Seattle-area teacher aided police in saving two young children from sexual abuse while aboard a Southwest Airlines flight. The teacher, an unidentified woman, was flying from Seattle to San Jose on Monday when she noticed a passenger in front of her was texting about sexually molesting children.
The passenger, 56-year-old Michael Kellar of Tacoma, Washington, had an enlarged font on his phone that allowed the teacher to read his messages with ease. She took photos of the messages with her own phone and promptly alerted the flight crew. Kellar was detained once they landed in San Jose.
According to San Jose sex-crimes Detective Nick Jourdenais, the Seattle teacher had kept her eye on the phone conversation for quite some time. The conversation seemed slightly harmless at first, though it quickly changed to a discussion of child sexual abuse shortly thereafter. “That’s the moment she decided to preserve the information as best she could.”
Using the information from Kellar’s cell phone, the police along with FBI agents, were able to target his Tacoma home and find the woman he was texting. Investigators have reported that 50-year-old Gail Burnworth was the woman carrying out all of Kellar’s sexual requests on two children ages 5 and 7.
Burnworth was working as a babysitter which is what gave her and Kellar access to the children. The police have declined to answer questions in regards to how Kellar and Burnworth knew each other or the children’s relationship to the two suspects.
Kellar is currently being held without bail in Santa Clara County jail and he faces charges of attempted child molestation and two felony counts of sexual solicitation. Burnworth is being held at Pierce County jail in Washington and is facing felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, rape of a child, and dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” Jourdenais said about the entire experience. “[A preschool teacher] 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 a child can go through.” Authorities are calling the Seattle teacher a hero for her actions.
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