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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Grand Jury Indicts Couple Texting on Aircraft about Child Molestation

Indictment Alleges Pair Conspired to Produce Child Pornography

          Two Tacoma, Washington residents who were observed texting on an airplane about sexually molesting children have been indicted by a grand jury in Seattle, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. MICHAEL KELLAR, 56, and GAIL LYNN BURNWORTH, 50, were arrested last month after an alert passenger on a flight to San Jose, California noticed disturbing texts between KELLAR, who was on the plane, and BURNWORTH, who was in Tacoma. BURNWORTH had access to two minor children. The indictment was returned on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. The pair are scheduled for arraignment on the indictment in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on September 18, 2017.

 

          “Two children are safe tonight because an observant passenger on a plane did the right thing,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “I commend law enforcement who quickly acted to get these defendants into custody, and protect two children from sexual abuse.”

 

          Both KELLAR and BURNWORTH are charged with conspiracy to produce child pornography. KELLAR is charged with two counts of attempted enticement of a minor in connection with his communication to BURNWORTH regarding the sexual exploitation and rape of each of the minor children.

 

          Conspiracy to produce child pornography is punishable by a mandatory minimum 15 years in prison and up to 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Attempted enticement of a minor is punishable by a mandatory minimum ten years in prison and up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

 

         The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

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

 

          Both defendants remain in custody.

 

          The case is being investigated by the FBI with assistance from the San Jose, California Sheriff’s Office, and the Seattle Police Department Internet Crimes against Children Task Force (ICAC).

 

          The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Hampton.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Contact: 
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Public Affairs Officer Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.
Updated September 7, 2017