Judge denies request to suppress statements by former deputy accused of murdering UGA grad student


Winford Terrell Adams III

By Joe Johnson

A judge has ruled that statements made to authorities by former Madison County deputy after he fatally shot a University of Georgia grad student two years ago can be used as evidence at trial.

In a motion filed in June 2020, defense attorneys for Winford Terrell “Trey” Adams III argued that the statements were not admissible in court because Adams made them without having been read the Miranda warning, which informs a person in custody that they have the right to remain silent and have an attorney present while being questioned.

The motion stated that without being read his rights, he made statements at the scene of the shooting to his supervisor, the Madison County sheriff and Athens-Clarke Couty police officers.

In her ruling filed Tuesday in Clarke County Superior Court, Western Judicial Circuit Judge Lisa Lott wrote, “Based on the totality of the circumstances, including, but not limited to, the fact Defendant was a law enforcement officer and very familiar with his rights as an accused, this Court finds that Defendant’s waiver of his constitutional right to remain silent to be uncoerced and voluntary, and his statements to Detective (Paul) Johnson during the interview at the police station are admissible.”

The judge noted that prior to making her ruling, she heard Adams make spontaneous comments when reviewing video footage from officer body-worn cameras as well as a camera in an ACCPD interrogation room.

Benjamin Lloyd Cloer

Adams was arrested on Nov. 10, 2019, the day Athens-Clarke County police said 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, 34, of Lord Fleming Road in Comer was off duty and not in uniform at the time of the shooting, police said. He was taken into custody at the scene.

In a call he made to a 911 dispatcher, Adams said he shot Cloer because he caught his wife cheating on him with the victim.

However, Adams’ wife told a dispatcher that Cloer was “just my friend. This was a misunderstanding. My husband doesn’t understand he’s just my friend.”

Court records indicate that 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 while Adams kept officers from helping the student by pacing on the front porch while holding a shotgun that he refused to put down, according to court records.

A Clarke County grand jury indicted Adams on charges of malice murder, felony murder, first-degree home invasion, and two counts each of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Adams pleaded not guilty to all charges, and he remains in custody at the Clarke County Jail without bail being set.

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