James Michael Wells could find out whether he is spending the rest of his life in jail Tuesday in the shooting deaths of two co-workers at the Coast Guard communications station two years ago.
Wells, 63, convicted in April of murdering Coast Guardsmen Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Petty Officer Richard Belisle, awaits sentencing in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage.
It had taken an Anchorage jury less than a full day to find Wells guilty of two counts each of first-degree murder, murder of an officer or employee of the United States, and possession of a firearm in a crime of violence.
Federal prosecutors had said earlier they would not seek the death penalty if Wells was convicted but are hoping to get two consecutive life sentences on him.
The case began as a baffling and tragic local chapter in Kodiak, and grew to become a nationally known story as local citizens tried to come to grips with the reality of the murders.
The victims — Hopkins, 41, an electronics technician from Vergennes, Vermont, and Belisle, 51, a former chief petty officer who continued service to the Coast Guard as a civilian employee — were found in the station's antenna rigger shop on April 12, 2012.
During the nearly three-week trial, prosecutors contended Wells, a Coast Guard civilian technician, resented the growing influence of Belisle and Hopkins in the shop where he was a nationally recognized antenna expert.
Wells served eight years in the Navy and 13 with the Coast Guard. Upon discharge in 1990, he was hired as a civilian employee.
Wells’ attorney, Federal public defender Rich Curtner contended the case was completely on circumstantial evidence and that authorities immediately focused on Wells and ignored other possible suspects. They claimed prosecutors lacked eyewitnesses, confession nor a murder weapon linking Wells to the homicides.
Wells’ wife Nancy Wells had told the Mirror she believed her husband was innocent and that unanswered questions surrounding the gun and a white pickup truck on the surveillance videos the night before the murders.
Contact Peter J. Mladineo at email@example.com
The Kodiak Daily Mirror will continue to update this story.