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Couple indicted after fellow airplane passenger sees texts about child abuse

Southwest flight arrests
Southwest flight arrests 01:44

TACOMA, Wash. - A federal grand jury has indicted a Washington state couple accused of sexually abusing children after an airline passenger reported seeing text messages about the abuse on a man's phone during a flight.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says 56-year-old Michael Kellar and 50-year-old Gail Lynn Burnworth were indicted Wednesday and will be arraigned later this month.

They were charged with conspiracy to produce child pornography, the News Tribune reported.

Kellar was also charged with attempting to entice a minor and Burnworth was also charged with child rape, molestation and sexual exploitation of a minor.

 Michael Kellar and Gail Lynn Burnworth San Jose Police Department via KIRO

Lawyers for the two declined comment.

They were arrested after a passenger reported seeing text messages on Kellar's phone discussing giving children drugs so they would be unconscious while being abused.

A federal pornography charge conviction 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.

Police in San Jose, California, arrested Kellar in the city's airport July 31 after a flight from Seattle.

The plane passenger told authorities that Kellar was sitting in front of her and texting about the abuse with a large font on a large smartphone. The font and screen were so big that the passenger was able to take photos of Kellar's text conversation, police said.

The passenger alerted the flight crew.

CBS affiliate KIRO reports that according to the complaint filed in court, investigators 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.

The court documents reportedly state that Kellar said the texts were fantasy, but that Burnworth told investigators she'd sexually assaulted and made child pornography of a child she babysat and taken naked videos of another. KIRO reports that investigators said the victims were 5 and 7-years-old.

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

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