A federal grand jury in Seattle have indicted a couple arrested on child pornography allegations after a passenger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight glanced at a disturbing text message exchange they’re alleged to have shared.
Federal prosecutors say Michael Kellar and Gail Lynn Burnworth conspired to record the molestation of two young girls. Kellar, 54, and Burnsworth, 50, were indicted Wednesday with conspiracy to produce child pornography, and Kellar has been charged with an additional sexual offense.
In a statement Thursday, U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes praised police for acting on a tip from a passenger aboard the San Jose, California, flight.
“Two children are safe tonight because an observant passenger on a plane did the right thing,” Hayes said. “I commend law enforcement who quickly acted to get these defendants into custody, and protect two children from sexual abuse.”
Kellar and Burnsworth were arrested July 31 after a passenger aboard a Bay Area-bound flight out of Sea-Tac Airport told police she saw a disturbing text exchange on the phone of another passenger, who turned out to be Kellar.
In court papers, an FBI special agent said Burnworth and Kellar discussed specific sex acts Burnworth planned to perpetrate against children to which she had access. They are alleged to have discussed drugging the children with Benadryl during the assaults.
“You can do this or are you just saying this???” Kellar is alleged to have asked Burnworth in one text.
“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 responded, according to charging papers.
Confronted by investigators, Kellar is alleged to have claimed he was “engaged in fantasy.”
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Kellar, who was arrested at the San Jose airport, acknowledged sending texts that were “very kinky” regarding children, the agent said in court papers. Investigators later found messages on Kellar’s phone that appeared to show Kellar request that Burnworth provide him with videos of her “engaged in bestiality, fetish behavior involving feces and ‘kid videos.’”
Investigators concluded that Kellar and Burnworth were arranging to molest children on video. Kellar was booked into jail in San Jose as officers arrested Burnworth at a Tacoma home.
Questioned outside the home, Burnworth is alleged to have admitted to sexually assaulting one young girl on camera, and taking photos of another young girl while she was nude. According to charging documents, Burnworth told police she sent the images to Kellar, who she met on Match.com a year before.
Investigators seized lengthy text exchanges between Kellar and Burnworth that include extremely graphic descriptions of sexually abusive behavior, charging papers indicate. They’re described joking about drugging the children in preparation for sexual abuse.
Kellar and Burnsworth are expected to be arraigned Sept. 18 at U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Both previously pleaded not guilty to a similar criminal complaint. They face mandatory 15-year sentences if convicted as charged in the federal matter.
Burnsworth has also been charged with child rape, molestation and related crimes in state court.