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Man Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting London 15-Year-Old Female Passenger On American Airlines Flight to Philadelphia

Man Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting London 15-Year-Old Female Passenger On American Airlines Flight to Philadelphia

the tail of an airplane with stripes on it

A 46-year-old man has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage girl who was traveling on her own on an American Airlines flight from San Diego to Philadelphia after he took advantage of her when she fell asleep during the four and a half hour flight.

The unnamed 15-year-old victim was traveling alone and was sat in a window seat while the suspect, identified as Edward Decker, was sat in the aisle seat with a middle seat empty between them.

According to court documents, Decker told the victim he was a married father with a young daughter waiting for him at home in Philadelphia. During the flight, Decker attempted to strike up conversation with the victim and commented how the book she was reading was “standard High School reading”.

During the flight, the victim fell asleep but awoke to find Decker “all over her” with one of his hands groping her breast under her shirt and his second hand rubbing her upper thigh area.

Prosecutors allege that Decker was “kissing her body and breast and rubbing his hands on her body”.

Decker then leaned in to kiss the victim before she told him to stop. He then moved back to his original seat but once the victim got off the plane in Philadelphia she feared he was following her, so she hid in a restroom for several minutes before asking to stand with a random couple at the baggage carousel.

After retrieving her luggage and exiting curbside, Decker allegedly approached her and asked if he could ever see her again. At this point, the victim noticed her parent’s car and quickly got inside before reporting the incident to police.

“The facts of this case are incredibly disturbing — a parent’s nightmare, really,” commented U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero after the plea agreement was reached.

“Not only should people feel safe putting their kids on a plane to get from Point A to Point B, everyone should feel free to close their eyes mid-flight without fearing a seatmate’s intentions,” Romero continued.

Sentencing has been set for September 23, 2024, and Decker faces a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment.

Matt’s take

As U.S. Attorney Romero points out, this is an incredibly disturbing case, but sadly, it isn’t an isolated incident and a steady rise in inflight sexual assaults over the last couple of years is a real cause for concern.

Offenders often target young female passengers who are trapped in a window seat and unable to escape quickly. In many cases, victims are often terrified about alerting flight attendants to what has just happened for fear of what the suspect might then do.

In other cases, victim have alerted the flight crew only to then find that their response to the allegations have been lacking.

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