A sharp-eyed passenger on a San Jose-bound airplane may have saved two young children from a traumatic and cruel experience at the hand of their 50-year-old babysitter.
A Seattle-area preschool teacher was on a Southwest Airlines flight when she noticed the man sitting a row ahead of her using his smartphone to text someone. Apparently, the reason the man caught her attention was because he was using unusually large fonts, which she could clearly read from her seat.
The woman, who remains unidentified, started paying attention to the man’s text after he allegedly wrote some disturbing words. However, it soon dawned on her that he was actually discussing molesting and sexually assaulting young children. The quick-thinking passenger began taking pictures of his phone and then quietly alerted the airline staff, who in turn informed the police.
“It was in large font, and she sees certain words and starts contemplating there’s something bigger there,” San Jose sex-crimes Detective Nick Jourdenais told the Mercury News. “Then the conversation transitions to children. That’s the moment when she decided to preserve the evidence as best as she could.”
When the plane touched the tarmac in California, the police and the FBI were there to detain the man, who was later identified as 56-year-old Michael Kellar of Tacoma, Washington. After confiscating his phone, the authorities contacted officials in Seattle and together they were able to target the home of the woman to whom Kellar had reportedly been sending those disturbing texts.
That’s when things got even more upsetting.
As it turned out, Kellar had been sending instructions on how to sexually abuse young kids to a 50-year-old woman, named Gail Burnworth, who worked as a babysitter and was carrying out those upsetting requests on two kids, ages 5 and 7, in her care.
“The conversations were very particular in regards to sex acts that were to be performed on... children,” San Jose Police Sgt. Brian Spears told the NBC Bay Area. “Some of the sex acts talked about not only molesting children, but performing bestiality.”
Spears also praised the witness who noticed the texts.
“If it wasn’t for this young lady’s actions, another sexual assault would have occurred,” he said.
Jourdenais shared similar sentiments.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” he said. “She gets on a plane, a normal citizen minding her business. A couple of hours later, she is intervening on quite possibly the most traumatic thing children can go through. This was life-altering for them.”
The police identified the children as victims. Kellar and Burnworth were reportedly involved in “some type of dating relationship,” according to the NBC Bay Area.
Kellar is being held into the Santa Clara County Jail on two counts of felony child molestation and two counts of felony solicitation of a sex crime. Meanwhile, Burnworth has been booked in the Pierce County Jail, Washington, for sexual exploitation of a minor, felony rape of a child in the first degree and felony dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit content.
Thumbnail / Banner: San Jose Police Department