CANTON — After avoiding arrest for 18 years, a former Carroll County man has been returned to Stark County to answer charges that he sexually assaulted several young girls.

Robert A. Hickinbotham, 63, was living in Dunnellon, Fla. On June 22, sheriff's deputies in Citrus County, Fla., went to Hickinbotham's residence to tell him they had a warrant for his arrest on five counts of gross sexual imposition.

According to an arrest report, Hickinbotham greeted deputies on his front steps. When deputies told him they had an arrest warrant from Ohio, Hickinbotham cursed and tried to go back into the residence. Deputies said they managed to catch the door, pull Hickinbotham outside and take him down. Hickinbotham suffered a cut on his head, according to reports by Florida deputies.

Hickinbotham was returned to Ohio by a private transport company on July 1 and has been held in the Stark County jail. He arraigned Friday in Stark Common Pleas Court.

According to the Stark County Prosecutor's office, the indictment issued in June 2000 alleges that Hickinbotham sexually assaulted three young girls, touching them inappropriately over their clothing.

The victims ranged between ages 7 and 14 when the assaults occurred, according to the prosecutors office. An initial report was made by the youngest child, and then the two other children made delayed statements about how they were assaulted.

At the time, prosecutors anticipated that Hickinbotham might be a flight risk and issued a secret indictment. Hickinbotham left the area before the indictment could be served, they said.

Victims who filed the assault complaints now are in their late 20s to mid 30s. Prosecutors said they still are trying to contact the victims.

Local officials believe new information about Hickinbotham's residence prompted an updated report on the old indictment. Florida officials said they went to Hickinbotham's residence after learning about the warrant on June 22.