Man who killed 2 Coast Guard employees in 2012 sentenced to life

A sketch artist's depiction of Wells on the stand during his 2014 trial.

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A man has been sentenced to life in federal prison for the murder of two Coast Guard employees in 2012. James Michael Wells, 68, was convicted of the murders in 2014, and his conviction had been overturned in 2017 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In October of 2019, he faced a re-trial and was convicted of 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.

Electrician's Mate First Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Richard Belisle were found dead in their duty station at the Coast Guard station on Kodiak Island in April 2012. The two men worked with Wells at the Rigger Shop at the USCG antenna maintenance facility at the Coast Guard's communication station.

Prosecutors say that Wells shot and killed the two men shortly after 7 a.m. There was no evidence of a break-in or robbery at the duty station. Wells should have been at work about the same time as the other two men, but left phone messages for the two victims, after the victims' time of death, claiming he was running late due to a flat tire.

Security footage, however, showed Wells passing the main gate of the base driving toward the airport before 7 a.m. and then driving back toward his residence at 7:22 a.m. Evidence showed that Wells swapped vehicles at the airport, and drove his wife's vehicle to the Rigger Shop. Prosecutors also found that a nail in Wells' tire had been manually inserted, and not picked up driving on the road.

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