Woman charged with child rape in Pierce County texting case

Gail Burnworth, 50, of Tacoma, Wash. is charged with child abuse crimes in Pierce County Superior Court. (Photo: San Jose Police Department)

TACOMA, Wash. -- The Tacoma woman accused of exchanging explicit text messages about child sex abuse with a man on board a flight from Seattle to San Jose was charged with sex abuse crimes Thursday morning in Pierce County Superior Court.

Gail Lynn Burnworth, 50, is charged with one count first-degree child rape, first-degree child molestation and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, according to a Pierce County news release.

Burnworth reportedly exchanged text message conversations last month with Michael Kellar of Tacoma that involved a plan to molest two children and film the assault, court documents state.

Kellar, 56, was arrested after a passenger on the flight in July spotted the text messages and notified authorities when she landed, according to the documents.

"The hero of this story is the observant plane passenger who reported this threat to children," Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a news release. "Everyone can help protect children from sexual abuse by being vigilant."

Burnworth was arrested last week in Tacoma by federal agents and along with Kellar, is being charged in federal court with conspiracy to produce child pornography, according to court documents. Kellar also is charged in federal court with enticement of a minor.

In hundreds of text messages between the two obtained by authorities, Kellar and Burnworth discuss the plan to drug, sexually assault and film the two children, ages 5 and 7, court documents state.

Burnworth admitted to authorities that she has sexually assaulted one of the children and took videos and photos during the assaults and sent them to Kellar, according to court documents.

Both Kellar and Burnworth admitted to authorities they had sexual interest in young children, documents state.

Burnworth remains in federal custody and will return to Pierce County Superior Court when a date is set for an arraignment, according to the news release.

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