The Slatest

Kids’ TV Host, Accused Child Molester Shows Up 30 Years Later as Youth Leader With New Name

“Mr. Wonder” on Louisiana TV in the 1970s.

Screen shot/CNN

An unnerving story out of San Diego: Law enforcement agents believe they’ve found a man wanted since 1979 on child molestation charges who was living under a new name and working in a number of roles that involved close contact with children. The man—Frank Szeles, allegedly a.k.a. Frank John Selas—had originally been charged in Louisiana with sexually abusing a number of children he’d met through his role as a local kids’ TV host named “Mr. Wonder.” He’s believed to have been in California since 1985. From the AP:

The man who faced a San Diego judge Wednesday denied he is the 76-year-old fugitive named Frank John Selas III who allegedly fled to Brazil in 1979 after Louisiana authorities secured a warrant for his arrest.

Back in Louisiana, Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators are convinced the right man is in custody. Meanwhile, officials in California are suddenly facing fears that Selas could have preyed on other children during the 37 years that he eluded capture.

Szeles, the AP reports, had in recent years been banned from working with children by a San Diego-area Cub Scouts group and a local Mormon church for what those organizations described in statements as violations of “youth protection policies and procedures” and “child protection policies,” respectively. It’s not clear whether the incidents that precipitated those bans became part of the U.S. Marshals investigation into Szeles that led to his arrest, but it does appear that he continued to pursue other opportunities to interact with kids:

A company called Szeles Enterprises organized Cub Scouts day camps, swimming lessons and Saturday field trips to boys as young as 5 … The website for Szeles Enterprises touts the owner’s experience teaching grades one through six overseas, coaching sports, teaching Sunday school and being PTA president at an elementary school less than three miles from his house. The ad, dated 2013, says the activities are for boys ages 5 to 11.

Szeles/Selas is believed to have sexually abused at least seven children during a camping trip in Louisiana in June 1979. He was known for appearing on a TV station in the city of Monroe as a character called “Mr. Wonder” who hosted childrens’ events.