A passenger traveling with Southwest Airlines led authorities to a man she spotted texting with an enlarged font about sexually abusing children during a San Jose-bound flight, authorities said.
Police arrested Michael Kellar when the plane traveling from Seattle touched down at Mineta San Jose International Airport on Monday, NBC Bay Area reported.
The witness, a Seattle-based preschool teacher, said the 56-year-old suspect was sending the illicit messages on his smart phone in plain sight. She was able to read them, she told the news station, because he was sitting right in front of her and using a font bigger than usual.
She snapped photos of the texts and quietly showed them to a crew member, who then phoned police. When the plane arrived at its destination, Kellar was detained.
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“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 news station. “Some of the sex acts talked about not only molesting children, but performing beastiality.”
San Jose sex-crimes detective Nick Jourdenais hailed the witness as a hero.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” he told the Mercury News. “She gets on a plane, a normal citizen minding her business. A couple of hours later, she’s intervening on quite possibly the most traumatic thing children can go through. This was life-altering for them.”
An investigation into the abuse also resulted in the arrest of Gail Burnworth, who was on the receiving end of Kellar’s text, authorities said. The 50-year-old worked as a childcare provider for the children and was involved in “some type of dating relationship” with Kellar, according to NBC Bay Area.
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Authorities also found the two children, ages 5 and 7, who were the subject of the messages.
“If it wasn’t for this young lady’s actions, another sexual assault would have occurred,” Spears said of the passenger.
Kellar was booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on two counts of felony child molestation and two counts of felony solicitation of a sex crime.
Burnworth was being held in the Pierce County Jail in 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.
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