'Safari Joe' Accused Of Child Sexual Abuse

Thursday, August 2nd 2012, 5:22 pm
By: News On 6

The man called "Safari Joe" is out on bond after he was charged with child sex crimes.

Joe Matthew Estes, 45, has had several animal sanctuaries over the years in Green Country.

Estes turned himself in Thursday afternoon in Mayes County, because of a child molestation investigation involving two young girls.

He was charged with one charge of rape by instrumentation and two counts each of lewd molestation and lewd or indecent acts to a child under 16.

The owner of Safari Joe's Wildlife Refuge near Adair turned himself in to Mayes County authorities.

Estes was charged and pleaded not guilty to five counts of child sex abuse.

"The allegations that were filed today are not allegations of anything that has occurred recently, but they're allegations that were reported fairly recently to law enforcement," said Mayes County Assistant District Attorney Marny Hill.

Hill said the charges involved two underage girls and took place from 2005 to 2007.

One of the girls was 10 or 11 years old, at the time that she said the abuse started.

Known as "Safari Joe," Estes has performed animal shows for several years at schools, churches and other locations.

Investigators said the girls were acquaintances of his, not children he met through public appearances or animal shows.

1/18/2008 Related Story: Safari Joe's Fire Kills Nearly 100 Animals

"As of right now, we have no information and no evidence that there was anything inappropriate occurring on any of the school shows or school visits being done," Hill said. 

Investigators suspect some of the sex acts took place at Estes' exotic zoo in Adair.

They believe there are other people have information about the case and haven't come forward yet.

"We have reason to think that there may be more out there, so we're hoping if anybody does have information that they'll contact us," Hill said.

Estes was remanded to a Mayes County jail after he entered his plea, and he was released on a $25,000 bond Thursday afternoon.

His attorney said Joe Estes denies the allegations 100% and looks forward to his day in court.

His attorney said he's looking into whether the allegations have anything to do with a pending child custody case, even though the children in the abuse case are not directly involved in the custody case. He said, "The timing is curious."

Estes will next appear in court on September 27.