Two children in Tacoma, Washington, have been rescued from a man and woman who were sexually abusing them after an observant airline passenger alerted authorities of suspicious text messages.
Fifty-six-year-old Michael Kellar was arrested in the San Jose city airport, after arriving from Seattle.
While sitting on the Southwest Airlines flight, a passenger behind Kellar was able to see his text messages, as his large smartphone was set to the largest font.
“It was in large font, and she sees certain words and starts contemplating there’s something bigger there,” reported a sex-crimes detective on the case.
The messages were allegedly sent to 50-year-old Gail Burnworth, who seemingly had access to a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old through babysitting. Investigators say Kellar was getting to the victims, who are believed to have been sexually abused, through Burnworth.
She was later arrested in her Tacoma home.
After seeing Kellar’s disturbing text conversation about the sexual exploitation of these children, the passenger (whom police did not identify), was able to take photos of the man’s text messages from her seat behind.
“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.”
The passenger then alerted the flight crew, and flight attendants notified authorities at the destination airport where Kellar was arrested.
He is accused of attempted child molestation and solicitation of a sex crime, while Burnworth is being held for suspicion of child rape and sexual exploitation of children.
The two are currently in jail, and the anonymous Seattle-area preschool teacher who busted them is being hailed a hero.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” said San Jose sex-crimes detective Nick Jourdenais. “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.”
And this isn’t the first time an attentive flyer has been able to recognize signs of exploitation.
In fact, Airline Ambassadors International is an organization that is training flight attendants to spot human trafficking victims and provide humanitarian services by leveraging their connection with airlines.
Back in 2016, Alaska Airlines flight attendant Sheila Fredrick felt “off” about a pair of passengers on her flight from Seattle to San Francisco. Aware of the warning signs for human trafficking and exploitation, Fredrick worked up a clever way to ask the passenger if she needed help.
Her quick thinking and ability to recognize a problem likely saved that teen’s life.
Like Frederick, this keen-eyed passenger is the reason two young children have been rescued from further abuse.
Click HERE for more information on what to be on the lookout for in possible cases of human trafficking or child exploitation.
It’s happening all around us, we need only the eyes to see it.