A Tacoma man texted girlfriend about molesting children. He was just sentenced to federal prison

A Tacoma man flying to California in 2017 used text messaging to tell his girlfriend to drug and rape children in her care, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Fortunately for the children involved, an alert passenger saw the texts sent by Michael Kellar, 58, and alerted airline employees.

On Friday, Kellar was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to produce child pornography.

Kellar and his girlfriend, Gail Lynn Burnworth, 52, were arrested in August 2017, after a passenger on a July 31, 2017, flight to San Jose noticed the disturbing texts between Kellar and Burnworth, who was in Tacoma at the time, according to records. The passenger notified the aircraft’s crew.

The flight crew had law enforcement meet the plane. A review of Kellar’s electronic devices showed Burnworth discussing drugging and raping children in her care, according to records in the case.

Investigators found sexually explicit images on Burnworth’s devices and several hundred images of child pornography on Kellar’s laptop, according to the U.S. Attorney. Kellar and Burnworth had made and shared sexually explicit images of children, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

“This case for me ... has been the most disturbing case that I have had,” U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton said at the sentencing hearing Friday. “(These offenses) beset on society a waterfall of negative repercussions that can never be repaired.”

Following his prison term, Kellar will be on lifetime supervised release and be required to register as a sex offender.

Burnworth pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography and will be sentenced March 27.

Kellar and Burnworth have been in custody since their arrests in 2017.

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.