"Safari Joe" turns self in on child sex crimes

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Updated: 8/03/2012 9:04 am Published: 8/02/2012 3:21 pm

A well known animal rescuer turned himself in after being charged with child sex crimes.  

Joe Estes, 45, also known as Joe Perez and Joe Seaman has been charged with rape, two counts of lewd molestation and to counts of lewd acts to young girls.

Estes runs Safari Joe’s just north of Adair. He was also known to visit many schools with his exotic animals.

The Mayes County Assistant District Attorney Marny Hill said Estes knew his alleged victims but he did not meet them in any of the schools he exhibited animals or through the Safari Joe's. 

Hill said the suspected child sex crimes happened somewhere on his 200 acres of land outside of Adair in Mayes County.

The Sanctuary is always closed to the public and signs on the fence show Reptile World is open on Saturdays to the public.

The Safari Joe’s website states Estes has been an exotic animal rescuer for 17 years. Now, he’s accused of child sex abuse.

"Shocking all the way around, shocking all the way around," said Hill.

Court records show the alleged victims were younger than 16 and older than age ten. The acts allegedly happened in May 2005 to September 2005 and with the same alleged victim between August 2006 and May 2007.

Records also show suspected lewd acts with another child happened between March 2005 and September 2006.

Safari Joe's visitors and friends are also shocked and shared their thoughts on Facebook.  

Cindy posted, “...Who knows what the truth is, Innocent until proven guilty right?"

Liz posted "....I personally never had a bad feeling about him. But then again, predators are almost those we least suspect. Terrible accusations! I hope justice is served."

A friend of Estes, Alan, posted, “I have known him for a long time as well and have been to his home in Adair and spent time with him at Grand Lake. Obviously never saw this side. He was always a fun likeable guy!! He has kids and was always concerned about his public image!! I am totally shocked and will not pass judgment!!”

Other Facebook users, Daniel, posted, “Doesn't surprise me, he always seemed creepy. Praying for the victims.”

To protect the victims’ prosecutors will not release how Estes had access to his alleged victims.

However, the case isn’t over.

"It is never too late to disclose," said Hill.

Prosecutors said there is evidence there could be other possible victims.  

"In order to make sure justice is done we would like information regardless of what it is," said Hill.

Prosecutors are encouraging potential victims to come forward. No matter the fear or embarrassment.

"People who have been victims to this particular crime should never think that happened a year ago, that happened two years ago it doesn't matter. It does matter,” said Hill.

The phone number for the Mayes County District Attorney Office is (918) 825-2171.

A woman who came out of Reptile World did not want to go on camera but asked the public not cast judgment until the case is over.

In 2003, Safari Joe’s volunteer Linda Brackett was killed by a tiger that bit her arm off.  

Estes pleaded not guilty and posted a $25,000 bond.

Records show Estes is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on September 27th.

His defense attorney Stan Monroe told FOX23 News his client denies all allegations and will expose motivations. He said Estes is in the middle of a custody battle and this could be retaliation.

However, he confirmed the alleged victims are not directly involved in the custody battle.  

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