On Monday, July 31st, a preschool teacher who wished to remain anonymous boarded a flight from Seattle, Washington to San Jose, California, and noticed something odd about the text messages of the passenger seated in front of her. The passenger in question, Michael Kellar, was caught describing explicit practices that involved molesting underage children; his text messages were displayed in an extra-large font size, allowing the young teacher to take photos of the conversation on her on own cell phone.
The teacher promptly showed the photos to the flight’s crew members, who immediately contacted local police after the flight landed. Kellar was apprehended when he exited the flight, questioned, and the woman he was texting, Gail Burnworth, was found to be in possession of the children, ages 5 and 7, mentioned in the messages.
Kellar was arrested in Santa Clara County, California, and now faces two counts of solicitation of a sex crime and two counts of attempted child molestation. Burnworth, who was deemed either a babysitter or primary caregiver of the children, was arrested in Pierce County, Washington, and faces charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, rape of a child, and dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit contact.
The children, whose identities have been kept private due to their status as minors, were reported as no longer being under Burnworth’s custody, although their current locations are unknown.
Child sex abuse unfortunately happens all too often worldwide. In the United States alone, nearly 700,000 children are abused in varying degrees. Approximately 4 out of 5 children are abused by their parents, or another close relative. Internationally, that number balloons to between 500 million and 1.5 billion. Many victims of child abuse are refugees; nearly half of children alone crossing the Mediterranean to Europe report being abused or raped.
If you suspect child abuse of any sort in your neighborhood or community, contact your local authorities. As one young teacher illustrated, a simple glance can be the first step to identifying and preventing a tragedy.