Fugitive TV Host 'Mr. Wonder' Accused Of Child Sex Abuse
A former TV host, known as "Mr. Wonder," was arrested in San Diego County this week for allegedly sexually abusing children nearly four decades ago. Frank John Selas III, 76, is accused of sexually abusing children during a 1979 camping trip in Louisiana, where he was once a TV personality, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Authorities say that Selas left the state before he could be arrested, and had been on the run until he was arrested on Monday at his home in Bonita, California.
During the late 1970s, Selas had hosted the "Mr. Wonder" show on KNOE-TV in northern Louisiana, which featured a live audience of kids.
The sexual abuse accusations against Selas stem from a retreat in Kisatchie National Forest in Gardener, Louisiana in June of 1979. After the camping trip, children who attended told their parents that Selas had sexually abused them, according to CNN. A warrant was issued, but Selas' wife told police that he took her car and left. The car was found the following day in Dallas.
Detectives continued to search for Selas, who had reportedly left the country for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Authorities have now learned that sometime in the 1980s, he returned to the U.S. and lived in multiple places around the country, including Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts, as well as Chicago. It wasn't until two weeks ago that he was tracked to San Diego by U.S. Marshals, where he was living under the assumed name of Frank Szelas.
Selas has denied that he is the person named in the charges and pleaded not guilty to fugitive charges on Wednesday in court, according to the Union-Tribune.
"Despite the allegations, for 37 years Mr. Selas has been a loving husband, father and grandfather," Selas' lawyer Marc Carlos said in a statement. "He's always provided for his family. He's well loved and respected and supported by his family, friends and the community here in San Diego."
According to NBC 7, Selas has lived in San Diego since 1985 where he has served as a PTA president of a school, as well as a soccer coach, PE teacher, and was also a member of the Southern California Mormon Church and Bonita Optimist Group.
A spokesperson from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told the L.A. Times yesterday that Selas has been "removed from all positions related to children" after he failed to comply with the church's child protection policies.
Selas has also been an American Red Cross swim instructor and Cub Scout Troop Leader in the San Diego area. According to NBC 7, Selas has been removed from the Cub Scout program following non-compliance with their child protection policies as well.
Selas will remain in jail in San Diego until an identification hearing scheduled for February 11, according to KNOE. If he is positively identified as the person in the sexual abuse charges, he will likely be extradited back to Louisiana to face charges there.
"We have finally captured this guy," San Diego Lt. Tommy Carnline told the AP. "Now the investigation can really start, because we believe there are more victims out there."