Frank Selas, known by his television name, “Mr. Wonder,” is accused of criminal sexual conduct with juveniles
NBC San Diego
26 January 2016
By Samantha Tatro and Michael Kunzelman
A former Louisiana television personality known as “Mr. Wonder” was arrested in San Diego on charges he sexually abused young children during a free camping trip nearly four decades ago.
Frank Selas, known by his television name “Mr. Wonder,” is accused of criminal sexual conduct with juveniles, said Sheriff William Earl Hilton of Rapides Parish, Louisiana.
In a statement Tuesday, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana said 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.
“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. And today, this person has been brought to justice,” said Sheriff Hilton in a statement.
It was not immediately clear if Selas had an attorney.
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.
The sheriff’s office said 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 said 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. During his time in San Diego, he worked with Bonita’s Cub Scout Troop 888, officials said. As they arrested him, they found a Cub Scout uniform in his home.
“If there was a definition of a sexual predator, this is one, and I am so proud of the work of our investigators along with the assistance of Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office and our local members of the U. S. Marshals Western District-Louisiana, Violent Offenders Task Force, in locating this suspect after all these years. We never forget our victims,” Hilton said.
At a press conference Tuesday, Louisiana officials said they believed there may be additional victims spread throughout several Louisiana jurisdictions, across the nation and possibly internationally. At the time, Selas is said to have traveled to several countries, including Japan, Central and South America.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the RPSO Criminal Investigations Division at (318) 473-6727 or (318) 473-6700.
‘Mr. Wonder’ arrested in California
Frank Selas, who, under his television name, “Mr. Wonder” was a host of a children’s show on KNOE-TV in the 1970s but has been a fugitive from justice, has been arrested in California.
Rapides Parish Sheriff William Earl Hilton has scheduled a news conference Tuesday to provide details of the arrest in the 37-year-old cold case involving criminal sexual conduct with juveniles reportedly committed by Selas.
“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. And today, this person has been brought to justice” said Hilton.
According to his own application, “Mr. Wonder” would invite children between the ages of 5 and 11, to have free camping weekends and outdoor activities with “Mr. Wonder.” Some of these weekends were conducted in Rapides Parish in the early summer of 1979. That is when RPSO became involved in the investigation, along with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Through leads developed by local detectives, Selas was taken into custody without incident Monday evening near San Diego, California, by members of the U.S. Marshal Service, Southern District-California, San Diego Fugitive TASKFORCE.
The primary reason for this press conference is detectives believe there are more victims out there, possibly over several jurisdictions on Louisiana, nationally and even internationally as Selas traveled to several countries including Japan and Central and South America.
“If there was a definition of a sexual predator, this is one and I am so proud of the work of our investigators along with the assistance of Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office and our local members of the U. S. Marshals Western District-Louisiana, Violent Offenders Task Force, in locating this suspect after all these years. We never forget our victims” said Sheriff Hilton.
Return to thenewsstar.com for updates this afternoon.
RPSO: After 37 years, ‘Mr. Wonder’ to face justice
Updated: Tue 6:52 PM, Jan 26, 2016
Former Monroe TV personality Frank Selas, known as “Mr. Wonder,” has been wanted for 37 years in case involving criminal sexual conduct with juveniles.
Frank Selas, known as “Mr. Wonder” to KNOE viewers in the 1970s, was taken into custody Monday in San Diego (Credit: RPSO).
ALEXANDRIA, La. (News Release) – The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office has made an arrest on a cold case dating back to the 1970s.
In June 1979, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office received allegations of criminal sexual conduct that occurred at a camping area near Valentine Lake at the Kisatchie National Forest in Gardener.
The complainants reported that their juvenile children had attended a camping retreat with Frank John Selas III, also known as “Mr. Wonder” who hosted a children’s television program at KNOE-TV in Monroe.
The retreat was promoted by Selas throughout Ouachita Parish and associated with his television personality. During the trip, Selas allegedly sexually abused several of the children that attended, which he was trusted to chaperone and protect. Following their return, the children disclosed the sexually based criminal acts to their parents who, in turn, contacted law enforcement.
The investigation was originally assigned to then-Detective William Earl Hilton and Detective Graham Hendricks. Hilton and Hendricks initiated their investigation immediately, which resulted in warrants being granted for Selas’s arrest for two counts of obscene behavior with a juvenile.
With the warrants in hand, Hilton and Hendricks, with the assistance of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, attempted to locate Selas at his place of business, as well as his residence, but were unsuccessful. Hilton and Hendricks were later informed by Selas’s wife Maria Magdalena Aranda Selas Szeles, that her husband had fled the area to parts unknown in their family vehicle. The following day, with the assistance of Texas law enforcement, Selas’s vehicle was located in a suburb of Dallas, TX.
Selas fled the country to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in lieu of arrest.
Throughout the years following their initial investigation, Hilton and Hendricks, as well as other law enforcement officers at their direction, continued the search for Selas. During this search, detectives learned of prior allegations levied against Selas in the early ’70s, while employed at a school in Tokyo, Japan. It was also verified that following his return to the United States in the early ’80s, Selas resided in multiple cities across the country. These locations included his hometown of Darien, CT, South Royalton, VT, Chicago, IL, San Diego, CA, Sheffield, MA, and Bonita, CA.
Approximately two weeks ago, detectives in conjunction with members of the United States Marshals Service, Western District-LA, Violent Offender Fugitive Task Force located Selas in Bonita, CA.
They learned that following his return to the United States, Selas used various aliases to conceal his identity which included “Frank John Szeles”.
His wife Maria also utilized the same alias last name and the two continued to reside together throughout the United States. In approximately 1992, Selas legally changed his last name in San Diego County CA to “Szeles” in a further attempt to disguise his identity.
Upon verifying Selas’s home address, 3225 Casa Verde Court, Bonita, CA, members of the United States Marshals Service, Southern District-CA, San Diego Violent Offender Fugitive Task Force immediately initiated 24 hours surveillance of the residence. On January 25th, 2016, at approximately 1830 Hours C.S.T. , members of the U.S.M.S. Violent Offender Taskforce Southern District-CA San Diego Violent Offender Fugitive Task Force took Selas into custody at his residence without incident. Selas was later booked into the San Diego County Detention Center in reference to the warrants. Frank John Selas III A.K.A. Frank John Szeles, A.K.A. “Mr. Wonder” 76, of 3225 Casa Verde Court Bonita, CA is currently being detained at San Diego County Detention Center in lieu of extradition proceedings.
Detectives state their investigation is still ongoing and Selas may be arrested in reference to additional charges relating to this case as well as others in which he was suspected of like crimes.
It’s a huge victory law enforcement and for the victims who have wondered this long if he would ever be caught.
“We in law enforcement, we never forget, and we never give up. As long as we’re alive and working, things will happen,” Sheriff Hilton said. “You get interested in something you might not have thought about for several years, but then you’ll go to working on it, and things come to fruition, and this one did.”
Ouachita Sheriff, Jay Russell, said, “This man preyed on a lot of young men and women while he was in a position as TV host in Monroe and for someone to do that and get by with it for so long, we’re hoping that it brings some closure to these victims that have been wondering for so long if he would ever be caught.”
Anyone with any information associated with crimes believed to be perpetrated by Frank John Selas III A.K.A. Frank John Szeles, A.K.A. “Mr. Wonder” are asked to contact Detective Stephen Phillips Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office at (318) 473-6727, Crime Stoppers at (318) 443-7867, or your local law enforcement.
‘Mr Wonder’ arrested in child sexual abuse case
The San Diego Union-Tribune
San Diego — A former Louisiana TV personality known as “Mr. Wonder” was arrested in San Diego on Monday on suspicion of sexually abusing children during camping trips nearly four decades ago.
Frank Selas, 76, invited children to a weekend camping retreat with “Mr. Wonder” in Gardner, Louisiana in June 1979. He is accused of abusing several of the children who attended, Rapides Parish sheriff’s officials said Tuesday.
U.S. Marshal Service members and a San Diego fugitive task force arrested Selas at his home on Casa Verde Court in Bonita about 6:30 p.m., sheriff’s officials said. He was booked into a San Diego jail in lieu of extradition proceedings.
“As I have stated many times before, there are cases you never forget, some that are always in the back of your mind that you hope one day to solve. And today, this person has been brought to justice,” said Rapides Parish Sheriff William Hilton, a former detective who was assigned to the case.
Selas legally changed his last name to Szeles in San Diego County in 1992, Rapides Parish sheriff’s officials said. He had used several aliases before that to conceal his identity.
After the alleged sexual abuse, Selas drove to Dallas and then fled to Rio de Jinero. In the early 1980s, he returned to the U.S. and lived in cities including San Diego, Chicago and others in Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts.
The Rapides Parish sheriff’s office said detectives believe there are more victims nationally and internationally because Selas traveled to several countries in the 1970s, including Japan and Central and South America.
Selas was 39 and hosted a children’s TV program at the time of the alleged crimes. He hosted several camping trips for children ages 5 to 11, according to sheriff’s officials.