Crime

Federal grand jury indicts couple airline passenger allegedly saw texting about child sex

A federal grand jury in Seattle has indicted Michael Kellar and Gail Burnworth on child-sex charges. A passenger on a flight from Sea-Tac Airport to San Jose reported she saw the Tacoma pair texting about abusing kids.
A federal grand jury in Seattle has indicted Michael Kellar and Gail Burnworth on child-sex charges. A passenger on a flight from Sea-Tac Airport to San Jose reported she saw the Tacoma pair texting about abusing kids. Courtesy photos

A federal grand jury has indicted a Tacoma couple exposed by an airline passenger for allegedly texting about sexually abusing children.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said 56-year-old Michael Kellar and 50-year-old Gail Lynn Burnworth were indicted Wednesday in Seattle and are to be arraigned later this month.

Both are charged in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to produce child pornography. Kellar also is charged with two counts of attempting to entice a minor.

Additionally, Burnworth is charged in Pierce County Superior Court with child rape, molestation and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Burnworth’s attorney, Jerome Kuh, declined to comment Thursday. Kellar’s attorney, Brett Purtzer, also said he didn’t have a comment because it’s early in the case.

A conviction on the federal pornography charge would mean a minimum of 15 years in prison, and could result in a sentence up to twice that. The enticement charge could result in a 10-year minimum sentence and up to life behind bars.

The case began July 31 when a woman sitting behind Kellar on a flight from Sea-Tac Airport to San Jose, California, told the flight crew that she saw text messages about child-sex abuse on Kellar’s phone.

Investigators later said Burnworth babysat the victims, ages 5 and 7.

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court:

Investigators followed up on the airline passenger’s information and found text messages between Burnworth and Kellar on Kellar’s phone. Among them was a discussion about giving kids Benadryl so that they would be unconscious while being abused.

Kellar said the texts were fantasy, but Burnworth told investigators she’d sexually assaulted and made child pornography of one of the kids and taken naked videos of the other.

She also said she’d sent 15 to 20 of the images and videos to Kellar, who she met on a dating website, records show.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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