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Mid-flight jumbo font smartphone text shock sparks kid abuse arrests

Quick-thinking preschool teacher clocks, reports fellow passenger's 'vile' messages

By Iain Thomson, 4 Aug 2017

Two people have been charged with child molestation after their texts allegedly discussing sexually abusing kids were spotted and reported by a preschool teacher. Who was sitting behind one of them. On an airplane. And the messages were in a huge font.

The unnamed hero was on a Southwest Airlines flight from Seattle, Washington, to San Jose, California, when she noticed a fellow passenger in the row in front of her was holding a large phone up to his face and messaging someone using an enlarged font over the in-flight Wi-Fi. The cellphone was seemingly set up to display letters in a huge font.

According to the teacher, the man was texting about sexually abusing children, so she used her own phone to take some photos of the conversation, and alerted the flight crew, showing them the evidence.

On landing at Mineta San José International Airport, one of the crew tipped off the San Jose plod, who showed up and cuffed the bloke – 56-year-old Michael Kellar, of Tacoma, Washington. Detectives from the city and San Francisco's FBI agents showed up, too.

According to the cops, Kellar was swapping the alleged vile texts with 50-year-old Gail Burnworth, also of Tacoma, Washington, about two children, aged five and seven. Officers and the Feds in Seattle later showed up at Burnworth's doorstep and collared her.

Kellar and Burnworth were both charged with multiple counts of sex crimes. In a statement on Thursday this week, San Jose Sergeant Enrique Garcia said:

Kellar was booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on two counts of attempted child molestation and two counts of solicitation of a sex crime.

Burnworth was booked into the Pierce County (WA) Jail for sexual exploitation of a minor, rape of a child 1st degree, and dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Persons with information regarding this incident or any other similar incidents are urged to contact Detective Nick Jourdenais and Detective Sergeant Brian Spears of the San Jose PD's ICAC Unit at (408) 537-1397.

Two children have been taken into protective custody following the arrests at the end of July.

"Kudos to this young lady. She went a step farther," Sergeant Brian Spears, commander of the San Jose police's Internet Crimes Against Children task force, told the San Jose Mercury News, regarding the teacher. "Without us responding right away, [Kellar] would have been lost." ®

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