A sharp-eyed passenger on a flight to San Jose, California, from Seattle, Washington, spotted someone sending graphic text messages about an alleged plot to rape children, leading authorities to arrest two suspects.
Authorities arrested Michael Kellar, 56, of Tacoma upon landing in San Jose on July 31 after the woman behind him snapped pictures of the alleged text exchange and notified Southwest Airlines staff, who in turn notified police, the Daily Mail reported.
Police also arrested Kellar’s associate, Gail Burnworth, 50, upon discovering that she was on the other end of the text message conversation.
Police say the messages that they discovered after seizing Burnworth’s phone show the pair plotting child abuse against two children, ages five and seven.
“Both of those kids – and a third – live with Burnworth, her ex-husband and her ex-husband’s wife, and Burnworth had been acting as their babysitter,” reports the Daily Mail.
The alleged conversation began July 28 when Kellar reportedly told Burnworth to “get some pics” of the children.
“Pics baby???” he allegedly said. “Maybe some panty shots??? If so, wrestling with her and pulling them to the side?”
“No not right now sorry,” Burnworth allegedly responded, but added she would send him pictures “and a lot of the videos as well” Sunday when the parents are not around.
According to documents of the text message conversation, Kellar allegedly asks Burnworth to describe what the content of these videos would entail. Burnworth, in response, allegedly describes how the oral and anal abuse of the two children will take place. “[Y]ou can do this or are you just saying this???” Kellar then replied, according to the documents.
“No I think I can do it if I don’t have parents over my shoulder or worried about who’s going to walk in on me,” Burnworth allegedly replied. “And then on Sunday I will have the kids no parents just kids.”
Kellar then says: You will “have to give them lots of Benadryl,” adding, “Do you think I could f**k them?”
On July 31, a schoolteacher sitting behind Kellar spotted text messages in a large font between the two suspects agreeing to make videos of the children “in their underwear” and “dog s*** eating videos,” photographed the messages, and notified flight attendants.
The teacher, who did not identify herself, identified Kellar to police at the airport who arrested him in San Jose.
California police worked with police in Tacoma, Washington, to arrest Burnworth. Prosecutors say the two suspects told police they were “aroused by children.”
Both suspects were charged Monday with attempted enticement of a minor, conspiracy to produce child pornography, and rape of a child.
Kellar remains in custody in Northern California but is expected to be extradited to Washington.
The teacher who spotted the text messages was a preschool teacher on her way to see family on vacation.
San Jose police Sgt. Brian Spears called the teacher “a hero,” adding that she “was paramount to this investigation.”
The woman, however, did not think of herself as a “hero,” telling the Mercury News: “I don’t need a bunch of attention. I’m just so thankful the kids are safe.”
Burnworth, however, was released for a day as a result of procedural oversight before authorities took her back into custody in Pierce County, Washington.