Air passenger foils child sex-abuse plot

WASHINGTON • Impromptu detective work by a woman on an airline flight resulted in the arrest of another passenger, whose text messages about sexually abusing children she photographed and gave to police, federal prosecutors have said.

Michael Kellar of Tacoma, Washington, was to be charged with conspiring to produce child pornography, prosecutors said, after he exchanged the explicit messages with a woman he met a year ago on a dating website.

He sent the messages to Gail Lynn Burnworth, also of Tacoma, while he was flying from Seattle to San Jose, California, on July 31, according to a criminal complaint.

The woman behind Kellar became alarmed as she could see the couple describe sexually abusing two children in Burnworth's care.

Burnworth promised to send Kellar pictures of her molesting the children while they slept.

"You can do this or are you just saying this???" Kellar replied in one message, apparently unaware the passenger behind him was taking photographs of his phone's screen.

"No I think I can do it if I don't have parents over my shoulder," Burnworth responded. "And then on Sunday I will have the kids no parents just kids."

The alarmed passenger, who has not been named, told flight attendants and later shared her photos with police who arrived to meet Kellar at the airport, the complaint said.

Kellar remained in custody on Tuesday and it was not clear whether he had a lawyer. Later that day, police arrested Burnworth, who told the authorities she had made up to 20 sexual images of the youngest two, a boy and a girl under 12 years old, to send to Kellar.

On her phone, police saw the full text message exchange in which the couple discussed drugging the children in order to rape them while the parents were away.

Both Kellar and Burnworth, who appeared in federal court in Tacoma on Monday, are charged with conspiring to produce child pornography, while Kellar, who is due to appear in federal court in San Jose, also faces a charge of attempted enticement of a minor.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Air passenger foils child sex-abuse plot'. Print Edition | Subscribe