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Common sense or nonsense? Jury deliberates Wells’ fate

By MJ Thim 8:26 PM April 24, 2014
ANCHORAGE –

Did James Wells shoot and kill 41-year-old James Hopkins and 51-year-old Richard Belisle the morning of April 12, 2012?

It’s the question jurors have been asked to answer as they deliberate the fate of Wells.

Prosecutors argued it’s common sense Wells is the killer during closing arguments Thursday in federal court. They believe he committed the murders inside the rigger shop of the Coast Guard yard on Kodiak Island.

Wells’ lawyers called the entire case nonsense because there wasn’t any evidence found connecting him to the crime.

Prosecutors told the jury Wells held a grudge against Hopkins and Belisle. They said he was angry because the two men were trying to push him out of a job.

The defense argued he had no history of violence and is a quiet and peaceful man whose only concern was safety when it came to his job. They asked the jury to think of Wells not as a stranger but as a loved one, such as a father or brother.

The prosecution painted a picture of how they believe Wells committed the crimes. They said he planned everything beforehand. Highlighting their point, they said Wells waited for his wife Nancy to go out of town so he could use her blue Honda CRV to drive to the shop instead of using his white truck. Two frames of video surveillance at the base were used by the prosecution to show Wells coming and going the morning of the murders.

The frames were of a blue blur the defense said could have been anyone. They argued not one expert called into testify during the trial said the blue blur was Nancy’s Honda CRV. They took the issue one step further and said no one could prove the two frames were the same vehicle — calling the prosecution’s case a house of cards.

Another area of debate: Wells’ alibi when the bodies were found. He said he was late to work because he had a flat tire that was punctured by a nail. Prosecutors showed the jurors a big truck tire and how they believe the nail was put there intentionally, perhaps by a nail gun.

In the end, prosecutors told the jury to use their common sense while the defense said it’s all nonsense Wells is the suspect and that the real killer is still on the loose.

The courtroom was packed with people for the first time since jury selection. Almost half of the people were from the Coast Guard, a majority of whom were from the Kodiak base.

Jury deliberations start Friday.

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