‘Jesus told her to open the plane door’: Woman flying from Houston bit someone on flight in effort to open plane door at 37,000 feet, doc says

HOUSTON – A woman who the FBI said forced a Southwest Airlines plane from Houston to Columbus, Ohio, to make an emergency landing in Little Rock, Arkansas on Saturday said in midflight that “Jesus told her to open the plane door,” court documents released Monday said.

Documents released by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas say the 34-year-old walked to the back of the plane where she “stared” at the exit door.

Court documents sketch this scene: A flight attendant then told the woman to either use the bathroom or sit down. Another flight attendant said the female passenger asked two flight attendants if she could look out the window, and when she received a negative response from the flight attendant, she forced her way past the flight attendant and began to pull the handle of the exit door in an attempt to open the door at 37,000 feet, records show.

A passenger who overheard someone say “she’s trying to open the door,” went to the rear of the plane and helped detain the woman, wrestling her to the ground, but not before she bit the passenger on the thigh -- and apparently held on. Documents said the woman continued to bite the victim until the victim “worked their fingers up to (her) jawline in an attempt to have (her) release the bite, which she eventually did.”

Documents said that’s when the woman began hitting her head on the plane floor and then later said, “Jesus told her to fly to Ohio and Jesus told her to open the plane door.”

The victim who was bitten received treatment -- antibiotics and hepatitis shots -- at a local hospital. Documents said the victim has had PTSD and anxiety since the incident. Court documents did not identify the victim but said that person had to call a veterans’ crisis hotline following the incident.

The woman accused told authorities she planned to go to Maryland to stay with a family friend who was a pastor. Documents said she left her home on Saturday without telling her husband and did not bring any luggage and was traveling alone. She “had not flown in “a long time” and could not recall the last time she had flown. Documents say she claimed she could not breathe on the plane and decided to get up from her seat. She said she remembered trying to open the door and bit the person. She also said she has anxiety and “became very anxious and normally would not have done those things.”

The criminal complaint indicates the woman is facing charges of assault within maritime and territorial jurisdiction and interference with flight crew members and attendants.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.