• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 1s

Defense witnesses take the stand in Coast Guard murder trial

By MJ Thim 5:25 PM April 18, 2014
ANCHORAGE –

Jason Barnum, also known as “Eyeball,” first made headlines in September 2012 when Anchorage police said he shot at them during a standoff at the Merrill Field Inn. Barnum remains in custody awaiting trial on attempted murder charges.

Handcuffed and in his jail uniform, the face-and-eye-tattooed Barnum was called into court Friday by James Wells’ defense team. The reason: His name came up in court this week by the prosecution. They asked Hannah Belisle, the daughter of a man killed in 2012 on the Kodiak Island Coast Guard base, about Barnum.

Barnum told the court he was in Kodiak at the time of the murders, but that he didn’t have anything to do with the crimes.

Wells is accused of shooting and killing 41-year-old James Hopkins and 51-year-old Richard Belisle (Hannah Belisle’s late father) at the Kodiak Coast Guard base two years ago. Prosecutors say he was angry about his job situation. All three men worked together at the rigger shop on base. Investigators found no murder weapon or witnesses to the crime.

The defense hoped to call Barnum as a witness, but the judge ruled his testimony wasn’t relevant. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility of Barnum actually testifying in front of the jury if the defense could find more evidence connecting him to the case.

Barnum then left court and the jury was seated.

Three friends of Wells testified about how he was a mentor, an exceptional co-worker and very neighborly.

Jonathan Musman said he considered Wells a mentor. The two met in 2002 while Musman was stationed in Juneau.

Musman, a Coast Guard commander, said he and Wells would spend a week at a time in remote locations working on engineering projects. Because of their working conditions, Musman testified their relationship gradually moved from professional to personal.

He said the last time he saw Wells was in Palmer, two weeks before the murders. They met up for breakfast while Wells was waiting to take a ferry back to Kodiak, he said. Life was good for Wells and he had no complaints about work, Musman said.

When prosecutors asked Musman if he knew about Wells being reprimanded for bad behavior, such as stealing gas and unethical conduct, Musman said no.

Greg Tlapa, another Coast Guard commander, testified he met Wells in 1999 while in Juneau, and like Musman, became personal friends with Wells. The two eventually ended up working together in Kodiak when Tlapa was stationed.

Tlapa said Wells was an exceptional worker and nominated him for an award, which Wells won. There were no anger issues or reputation of violence that he was aware of with Wells, Tlapa said.

During cross examination, Tlapa said the last time he saw Wells was in 2011 in Washington, D.C., and contact between the two diminished afterwards. When asked about Wells’ bad behavior reprimands, Tlapa said he had no knowledge of them.

Gary Carver portrayed Wells as very neighborly. He said their families would spend lots of time together in Kodiak. The two didn’t talk much about work and when Wells did, it was never negative, he said. When asked by the prosecution about any insight on Wells working at the rigger shop, Carver said he didn’t know.

The defense then called two men who knew Hannah Belisle, one of whom was her ex-boyfriend. Their testimony caused confusion when it didn’t match what they told defense lawyers two weeks ago.

Court ended early on Friday when another witness didn’t show up.

Wells’ defense strategy is reasonable doubt because his lawyers say there is no evidence linking Wells to the murders.

 

Latest Stories

  • News

    UPDATE: Police locate missing 4-year-old girl

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 27, 20:58

    Last updated at 10:20 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27 Four-year-old Alyiah Touyon has been located and is safe, according to Anchorage police spokesperson Jennifer Castro. “Officers located her down the street at a residence a couple blocks away,” said Castro. “She’s safe and okay.” About 30 people turned out to help search for Touyon, but […]

  • News

    DOC commissioner stands by decision to close Palmer prison after backlash from union

    by Alexis Fernandez on Jul 27, 20:40

    The Alaska Department of Corrections commissioner issued a statement Wednesday standing by his decision to close the Palmer Correctional Center, despite backlash from the union representing correctional officers. On Tuesday, the DOC announced plans to close the prison by the end of the year due to state budget cuts. The 500 minimum to medium security […]

  • News

    Economic outlook shows declining consumer confidence, expected job losses in Anchorage

    by Heather Hintze on Jul 27, 20:08

    Consumer confidence in Anchorage is at an all-time low, according to the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation’s (AEDC) three-year economic outlook. AEDC randomly surveyed 350 households in Anchorage which rated their optimism on a scale of 1 to 100. In the second quarter, for the first time since AEDC started the survey in 2011, consumer optimism […]

  • News

    War Birds take to the skies over Anchorage ahead of Arctic Thunder

    by Bonney Bowman on Jul 27, 19:24

    The Arctic Thunder Air Show and Open House is this weekend at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, but it’s not all about the latest and greatest airplanes. World War II-era planes knows as War Birds are also part of the air show. The War Birds are part of the Wings of Freedom Commemorative Air Force, […]

  • Crime

    Anchorage man accused of targeting, assaulting registered sex offenders

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 27, 16:47

    An Anchorage man has been arrested and indicted on multiple charges of assault, robbery, burglary and theft after conducting targeted attacks on registered sex offenders, according to a Wednesday release from the Alaska Attorney General’s Office. According to prosecutors, 41-year-old Jason Christian Vukovich attacked at least three men listed on the Alaska Sex Offender Registry […]

  • News

    Harry Brower Jr elected new North Slope Borough mayor

    by Associated Press on Jul 27, 16:43

    The North Slope Borough has a new mayor following a runoff election last week. Harry Brower Jr. was sworn Tuesday after absentee and questioned ballots were tallied and the results of the election were certified. He is the brother-in-law of Charlotte Brower, who was recalled as mayor earlier this year after she was linked to […]

  • Politics

    Murkowski raises more than $730K during latest quarter

    by Associated Press on Jul 27, 14:22

    U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski brought in more than $730,000 during the latest fundraising quarter. As of June 30, the Republican had nearly $3.1 million available. Murkowski faces no major opposition in next month’s GOP primary. Independent Margaret Stock, who will first appear on the November general election ballot, reported raising about $190,000 from April through […]

  • Lifestyle

    Federal Reserve keeps interest rates near record lows

    by CBS/AP on Jul 27, 12:01

    WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates unchanged while noting that near-term risks to the economy have diminished. “The Fed seems intent on telling the markets that a September hike is a possibility,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group, emailed. “They do this not because they are intent to raise but to […]