Airline Passenger Spots Child Abuser Texting About Child Molestation, Saves Victims

Here is another case of a woman being involved in child sexual abuse. The person the man was texting to set up sex acts with children, is a woman.


Written by Rachel Herron

A Seattle preschool teacher recently proved that the phrase “see something, say something” can actually save lives. While on a flight from Seattle to San Jose on Monday, she reported a possible case of sexual abuse after reading texts on a fellow passenger’s phone that referenced sexual acts with children, authorities said.

During the Southwest Airlines flight, the woman noticed explicit messages involving sexual fetishes with children on a man’s phone. The man, who sat in front of her, used large font on his phone and held the device in plain sight of other travelers. Once the woman noticed a few messages she found disturbing, she reported the man to the flight crew, reported Mercury News.

“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” San Jose sex crimes detective Nick Jourdenais told Mercury News. “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.”

“It was in large font, and she sees certain words and starts contemplating there’s something bigger there,” Jourdenais said. “Then the conversation transitions to children. That’s the moment when she decided to preserve the evidence as best as she could.”


When the woman noticed the messages, she took photos of some of the texts with her own smartphone and then quietly alerted the flight crew. They contacted San Jose police and its airport division stationed at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

“Kudos to this young lady. She went a step further,” Sgt. Brian Spears, commander of the SJPD Internet Crimes Against Children task force told Mercury News. “Without us responding right away, he would have been lost.”

Once the plane landed, San Jose police, along with San Francisco-based FBI agents, detained 56-year-old Tacoma resident Michael Kellar.

When Jourdenais and Michael O’Grady searched Kellar’s phone, the suspect dismissed his text messages as nothing more than fantasy and role playing. Yet the detectives continued their investigation and contacted FBI agents and detectives back in Seattle.

Using smartphone technology, the detectives located the home in Tacoma where the woman exchanging texts with Kellar lived. After responding to the home, they discovered two children, ages 5 and 7, who were being sexually abused.

Investigators contend that Kellar was making sexual requests for the children and that the woman, identified as 50-year-old Gail Burnworth, was carrying them out.

Kellar was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on suspicion of two felony counts each of attempted child molestation and solicitation of a sex crime. He is being held without bail.

Burnworth was booked into jail in Pierce County, Washington, on suspicion of felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, rape of a child and dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.


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