SAN DIEGO (AP) — A judge ruled Thursday that a former Cub Scout leader in the San Diego area is the former child television show host "Mr. Wonder," who fled Louisiana in 1979 amid allegations that he sexually abused children on a camping trip.
The decision sets the stage for Frank John Selas III, 76, to be extradited to Louisiana, where he is wanted on two counts of obscene behavior with a juvenile. Authorities say he settled in the San Diego area by 1985 and legally changed his name to Frank Szeles.
William Hilton, a detective assigned to the case in 1979 who is now sheriff of Rapides Parish, argued in an affidavit that matching physical appearance, Social Security numbers and dates of birth helped prove the man arrested at his home last month in the San Diego suburb of Bonita was the fugitive.
Prosecutors also cited statements that the defendant allegedly made on his arrest, which were not detailed in court. Steve Jurman, supervisory deputy U.S. marshal in San Diego, has said Selas acknowledged changing his name.
Marc Carlos, an attorney for Selas, noted there were no matching fingerprints but Superior Court Judge Jay Bloom ruled swiftly, offering no explanation.
Selas, who stood slightly hunched with his hair disheveled and glasses resting below his eyes, said nothing during a hearing that lasted about five minutes. He is being held without bail.
"He's traumatized," Carlos told reporters. "He's not in good shape."
In the late 1970s, Selas hosted the "Mr. Wonder" show on KNOE-TV in north Louisiana. Authorities say he fled to Brazil in 1979 after parents complained to Rapides Parish authorities that he abused their children on a camping trip.
The man known as Frank Szeles advertised swim lessons and other activities for young children from his home in a well-to-do neighborhood about 10 miles southeast of downtown San Diego. A husband and father, he once served as a Cub Scouts pack leader in Bonita and was active in the Mormon church.
The Boy Scouts of America said he was removed from his position several years ago for failing to comply with the organization's "youth protection policies and procedures" after a parent made an unspecified complaint that didn't relate to scouting. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it removed him from "all positions related to children" for failing to comply with the church's child protection policies.
The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office says investigators have identified seven alleged victims in Louisiana, but the charges only relate to two of them. No alleged victims have emerged publicly in San Diego.