Plane Passenger Reads Man's Chilling Texts, Alerts Crew

Woman called a 'hero' after alleged child predators charged
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2017 6:36 AM CDT
Updated Aug 6, 2017 11:50 AM CDT
Airline Passenger Stops Suspected Child Predators
Michael Kellar (left) and Gail Burnworth.   (San Jose Police Department)

An airline passenger is being hailed as a "hero" after she helped stop two suspected child predators—whom she uncovered by glancing at text messages easily read over a fellow passenger's shoulder. According to police, the unnamed Seattle-area preschool teacher became alarmed after spotting "certain words" in the large-font texts of a man seated in front of her on a Southwest flight from Seattle to San Jose on Monday, per the San Jose Mercury News. The woman read on as the man allegedly instructed his correspondent to molest children. "That's the moment when she decided to preserve the evidence as best as she could," an officer says. The woman took photos of the man's screen, then notified the flight crew. Once the flight had landed, the man was questioned by the FBI and San Jose police.

Police say 56-year-old Michael Kellar of Tacoma, Wash., let authorities review his messages and claimed they only spoke of sexual fantasy. But police say the woman from Tacoma with whom Kellar was communicating was babysitting two children, aged 5 and 7, at the time, report the Washington Post and KIRO 7, and police allege the kids were being abused. Kellar and 50-year-old Gail Burnworth were both arrested Monday. Kellar faces charges of attempted child molestation and solicitation of a sex crime, while Burnworth is charged with rape of a child and other crimes. "If it wasn't for this particular passenger taking action to alert the staff and alert the police, this catastrophic event would have been horrific," San Jose Police Sgt. Brian Spears tells Q13. "In my eyes, she is our hero." (Another plane flight—and a 911 call—made headlines this week.)

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