Aircraft passenger sees SMS child-sex instruction texts, alerts police

A passenger aboard a San Jose-bound Southwest Airlines was taken into custody after police say he was caught sending explicit text messages about sexually abusing children on Monday.

According to a press release by the San Jose Police Department, on July 31, a female passenger who identified herself as a Seattle-based preschool teacher said that the suspect, 56-year-old Michael Kellar, was sending text messages in plain sight. The text fonts were large enough to where his typing was clearly legible from casually glancing at his phone screen. The witness said the messages were hard to miss as the man was sitting directly in front of her.

The preschool teacher quietly snapped a photo of the text messages and showed the photo to a crew member on the airline, who then called the police. When the flight landed in San Jose, Kellar was detained by authorities.

“The conversations were very particular in regards to sex acts that were to be performed on… children,” San Jose Police Sgt. Brian Spears told NBC News. “Some of the sex acts talked about not only molesting children, but performing beastiality.”

An investigation led to the arrest of a female suspect, 50-year-old Gail Burnworth, of Tacoma, who was reportedly exchanging the text messages with the suspect. Seattle-based Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and FBI division arrested Burnworth and located two children, ages 5 and 7, who were considered victims. Both children were placed into the care of protective custody. Authorities said Kellar and Burnworth were in “some type of dating relationship.”

“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” San Jose sex-crimes detective Nick Jourdenais said of the witness who discovered the man sending text messages. “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.”

Authorities booked Kellar into the Santa Clara County Jail on two counts of child molestation and two counts of solicitation of a sex crime. Burnworth was booked into the Pierce County Jail in Washington for rape of a child in the first degree, dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit content, and sexual exploitation of a minor.

[Feature Photo: Police Handout]