Ex-TV show host arrested in 37-year-old sex abuse case

AP News
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Posted: Jan 26, 2016 6:22 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A man who once hosted a children's show on local television under the name "Mr. Wonder" has been arrested on charges he sexually abused children during a camping retreat nearly four decades ago.

In a statement Tuesday, the Rapides Parish sheriff's office in Louisiana says 76-year-old Frank John Selas III remained a fugitive for 37 years before his arrest Monday at his home in Bonita, California, on two counts of obscene behavior with a juvenile.

In the late 1970s, Selas hosted the "Mr. Wonder" show on KNOE-TV in north Louisiana. In 1979, the sheriff's office received complaints from parents who accused Selas of abusing their children during a camping trip near Valentine Lake at Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. He promoted the trips for children ages 5-11, according to a flier provided by the sheriff's office.

Selas, then 39, allegedly the fled the country before investigators could arrest him.

Lt. Tommy Carnline, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said investigators have identified seven alleged victims, but the charges only relate to two of them.

"We have finally captured this guy," Carnline said in a telephone interview. "Now the investigation can really start, because we believe there are more victims out there."

The sheriff's office says Selas fled to Brazil after its detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest in 1979. Investigators believe he returned to the U.S. in the early 1980s and lived with his wife under assumed names in several different cities and towns across the country, including San Diego; Chicago; Darien, Connecticut; South Royalton, Vermont; and Sheffield, Massachusetts.

The sheriff's office says investigators learned about two weeks ago that Selas was living in San Diego County, California, where he had legally changed his last name to Szeles in the early 1990s. Agents from a U.S. Marshals Service task force arrested him without incident.

William Hilton, Rapides Parish's elected sheriff, was one of the detectives assigned to the case in 1979.

"As I have stated many times before, there are cases you never forget, some that always are in the back of your mind that you hope one day to solve," Hilton said in a statement.