James Wells has been found guilty of the 2012 double murder of two members of the U.S. Coast Guard on Kodiak Island.
The Anchorage courtroom where a month-long trial unfolded fell silent when a 15-member federal jury entered around 2 p.m. Friday, a day after closing arguments, after just six hours of deliberation.
Debbie Hopkins and Nicola Belisle let out sighs of reliefs and wept as a guilty verdict was returned on the first count of first-degree murder. But Wells sat motionless with little display of emotion as he learned he was guilty on all six counts related to the 2012 killings.
Nicola Belisle, wife of retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Richard Belisle, who was gunned down on April 12, 2012, called the conviction a form of "vindication."
"It's vindication of everything I've felt and said from the very beginning, right after my husband was killed and they came to tell me," she said. "I knew who was responsible."
Belisle was a civilian electronics technician at the time of his death, and the other victim was Petty Officer James Hopkins, 41.
The close-knit island community was shocked when two men were gunned down on April 12, 2012, while they were at work on the Coast Guard Communications Station.
Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies swarmed around the base at the time to try and find a suspect. Wells was quickly identified because of past conflicts with both of the men, who had been his coworkers.
While investigators never found the murder weapon after it mysteriously disappeared, federal prosecutors relied heavily on circumstantial evidence and witness testimony to secure the guilty verdicts.
From the beginning of the case to closing arguments, prosecutors argued an attack was carefully planned and that only Wells had a motive and strategic knowledge of the communications station where he worked with the victims.
Prosecutors argued that he drove his wife's blue Honda CR-V while committing the crime and that he switched cars later once he made his way off base.
A blue vehicle was seen on surveillance video before and after the murders occurred.
The defense tried in vain to characterize the government's case as a house of cards held together by the video identification of a car resembling the one owned by Wells' wife.
Wells' lawyers also argued that he had no motive, even with past conflicts with the slain coworkers.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 8. Wells faces a potential life sentence for each count. Federal prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.
Channel 2's Blake Essig contributed to this report