By Joe Johnson
A former Madison County sheriff’s deputy on Friday was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a University of Georgia grad student over two years ago.
Athens-Clarke County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lott sentenced 34-year-old Winford “Trey” Adams in accordance with a plea agreement he made with the Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.
In exchange for pleading guilty to felony murder and aggravated assault, the DA’s office dismissed charges of malice murder, first-degree home invasion, and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
According to police and court records, Adams was arrested on Nov. 10, 2019, the day he fatally shot 26-year-old Benjamin Lloyd Cloer at the victim’s residence on Old Jefferson River Road.
Cloer, a UGA student who was working toward a master’s degree in artificial intelligence, had been shot multiple times and he later died at the hospital.
Adams, of Lord Fleming Road in Comer, was off duty and not in uniform at the time of the shooting and he was taken into custody at the scene.
Adams tracked his wife to Cloer’s home by using a GPS app. He thought his wife was cheating on him because she previously told Adams that she was eating with friends.
In a call he made to an Athens-Clarke County 911 dispatcher, Adams said he shot Cloer because he caught his wife cheating on him with the victim.
However, Adams’ wife told the dispatcher that Cloer was “just my friend. This was a misunderstanding. My husband doesn’t understand he’s just my friend.”
The victim’s father, Steve Cloer, said that his son was hosting a dinner for friends, and that Adams’ wife was just one of those friends.
Adams shot Cloer in the back as the student tried to run from his house while the deputy and his wife were involved in an altercation.
Cloer lay dying on the ground on a neighboring property while Adams kept officers and EMS personnel from helping the student by pacing on the front porch while holding a shotgun that he refused to put down.
Steve Cloer said that he and other family members agreed to the plea bargain rather than risking a trial in which jurors might be unable to unanimously agree on a verdict, resulting in a mistrial.
Adams will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years in prison.
“Lloyd” Cloer, as family and friends called the victim, had a history of excellence and honors throughout his years in school, including college, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, with a minor in math.
When he was murdered, Cloer was three weeks away from earning a Master of Science degree in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Georgia.
UGA presented Steve Cloer with his son’s degree one year after Lloyd’s death, even though the slain student had not completed all requirements for the degree.