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Paul Guerrant seemed to have turned things around. Struggles with alcoholism and homelessness were behind him.

Friends said he had just celebrated 17 years of sobriety, grew active in a local church and was baptized in the fall.

But his redemption story ended Dec. 22 when he was found beaten to death in the middle of a Dalton street.

News of the killing floored members of Dalton's Rock Bridge Community Church, said Pastor Alfred Turley.

"We love people coming in with a story of redemption, and Paul has been on a journey of redemption that we've really enjoyed watching," Turley said. "And it's so tragic to have that story cut short. And it's breaking our heart. It really is."

Dalton police have retraced many of Guerrant's movements from that day. But nine minutes surrounding the end of his life remain a mystery.

Guerrant was walking home from a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous at St. Mark's Episcopal Church. The church is about 1.5 miles from where he was living. Police say various surveillance videos from local businesses show Guerrant was walking alone.

He was on the phone with an out-of-state friend until 9:28 p.m. And a passerby called 911 at 9:37 p.m. after finding his body.

Guerrant was taken to Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga, where he was pronounced dead. Police say he died from blunt-force trauma to the head. Investigators have not released any information about Guerrant's attack, a suspect or a possible motive.

"At this point we have not identified a primary suspect, but we've got leads we are following," said Bruce Frazier, spokesman for the Dalton Police Department.

Tips

Anyone with information on Paul Guerrant's death is asked to call Dalton Detective Chris Tucker at 706-278-9085.

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Paul Guerrant

Frazier said police are asking anyone with information on Guerrant or his attack to come forward.

"Even if people think something is insignificant, we would love for them to contact us," Frazier said.

Guerrant, 43, had grown up in Dalton but left some time after graduating high school in 1991, longtime family friend Sally Higgins said. She said he recently returned to Dalton but wasn't in contact with local family members.

"He was trying to get on the right path," Higgins said. "He'd made big strides over the past year."

Higgins said she'll remember Guerrant for his walking. He was always walking around town, chatting on his phone.

"He was happiest when he was walking," she said. "I bet you he's probably walked 5 million miles."

At Rock Bridge Community Church, Guerrant had grown involved in several small group ministries, the pastor said. And he served on a technology team to help with the church's productions. Turley remembers him always being full of joy and enthusiasm.

"We were excited about the journey he was taking with God," Turley said. "This has just been a terrible tragedy for us as a church. We're heartbroken. We would love to see justice. But we're also very grateful to have been a part of a process in his life to where now we know where he is. For that part we're relieved."

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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