Wells guilty of double murder

Victims of the April 12, 2012 shooting at the Coast Guard communications station Richard Belisle (second from left), and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins (second from right) are shown working to erect a 120- foot communications antenna on Shemya Island on July 2, 2011, along with Jim Wells (left) and Petty Officer 3rd Class Cody Beauford (right). 

An Anchorage federal jury has convicted James Michael Wells for the April 2012 killings of two men at a Coast Guard communications station on Kodiak.

The jury of six women and six men deliberated for eight hours to find Wells guilty Tuesday afternoon of murder for the deaths of Coast Guard Electrician’s Mate 1st Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain’s Mate Richard Belisle, who was hired as a civilian worker after his retirement.

Wells, now 68, was arrested on Feb. 15, 2013, for the shooting deaths of the two men, who were Wells’ coworkers at the Coast Guard antenna maintenance facility, known as the "rigger shop."

This was Wells' second trial. He was initially convicted in 2014 and sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the conviction in December 2017 and ordered a new trial after some of the evidence used at his first trial was deemed prejudicial.

The second trial lasted a month, and the jury heard closing arguments Monday.

Wells was convicted on all six counts of the indictment: two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of murder of an officer or employee of the United States, and two counts of possession and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

Wells' defense attorney, Gary Colbath, argued that the government fixed on his client from the beginning and failed to investigate to possibility that a random stranger might have committed the killings. Hopkins and Belisle were killed shortly before 7:15 a.m. Wells' didn't show up for work until 8:30 a.m., first blaming his tardiness on a flat tire and later changing his story to say he had soiled himself after a bout of diarrhea and had to clean himself up.

U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki characterized Wells' alibi as “ludicrous” and “preposterous” and said Wells killed Hopkins and Belisle out of professional jealousy and troubles at work.

Sentencing will be scheduled by the court. Wells faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

 

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