'Something Had to be Done': Airplane Hero in Child Sex Abuse Arrests Shares Her Story - NBC Bay Area
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'Something Had to be Done': Airplane Hero in Child Sex Abuse Arrests Shares Her Story

"I still get very choked up about it," she said. "It still hits hard."

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    The mystery airplane passenger who helped police arrest two people suspected of child sex abuse is being hailed as a hero, and now she's recounting the events that put her in a position to earn such praise. Ian Cull reports. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017)

    The mystery airplane passenger who helped police arrest two people suspected of child sex abuse is being hailed as a hero, and now she's recounting the events that put her in a position to earn such praise.

    A preschool teacher named Kristina witnessed a man exchanging some alarming text messages on a flight from Seattle to San Jose last week. She asked that her last name not be revealed, for fear of retribution.

    Kristina said that when she saw what the couple was planning to do, she had to step in.

    "I still get very choked up about it," she said. "It still hits hard."

    Man Arrested at SJC After Passenger Spots Him Texting About Sex Abuse of Kids: Police

    [BAY] Man Arrested at SJC After Passenger Spots Him Texting About Sex Abuse of Kids: Police

    A sharp-eyed airline passenger spotted a Tacoma man texting about sexually assaulting children, leading officers in San Jose to arrest him and his partner and find two young victims, authorities said Thursday. Robert Handa reports.

    (Published Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017)

    The memory may still haunt her, but Kristina's teacher training and instincts kicked in on a Southwest flight to San Jose when a man leaned back in his chair and started texting.

    The messages he sent, Kristina said, included plans to sexually abuse children.

    "I don't know if it was divine intervention or what, but I just saw that, and what I saw unfold was horrifying and decided something had to be done," Kristina said.

    Prosecutors say it was 56-year-old Michael Kellar texting with Gail Burnworth. Kristina tried to gather evidence.

    "I just started taking pictures, zooming in and taking pictures," she said.

    As the plane was about to land at Mineta San Jose International Airport, she made eye contact with a flight attendant.

    "She asked if I was OK, and I leaned over and whispered, 'I think there is some sort of pedophile action going on,'" Kristina recalled. "She told me I would be the first off the plane to talk to their special ops person, and I showed him the first text, the second text, and that was enough for him to say we need to tell the authorities here.”

    Kellar was taken into custody on the plane, before he could delete the messages. Detectives credit Kristina with being proactive and discreet.

    "There's truth in 'If you see something, say something.' It's not a cliche," she said. "Within hours, they were able to get those kids out of that home, and that was the most impactful thing."

    Burnworth would be arrested hours later in Tacoma, Washington. If convicted, Burnworth and Kellar each face 15 to 30 years in prison.

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