Wells Arraigned for Kodiak Coast Guard Murders
Details of investigation released at arraignment
ANCHORAGE - James Michael Wells, 61, made his way into a federal courtroom at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon and pled not guilty to six charges.
The Kodiak man is charged with killing U.S. Coast Guard Electrician’s Mate First Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain Mate Richard Belisle, who at the time of his death was working at the communications tower as a civilian, on April 12, 2012.
According to federal documents, on the day of the murders Wells parked his 2002 Dodge Ram pick-up truck at the Kodiak airport and traded it for his wife’s Blue Honda CR-V.
Hopkins, 41, arrived at work at the Kodiak communications station shortly after 7 a.m., along with Belisle, 51. Another Coast Guard member discovered both men dead thirty minutes later.
In the time between their arrivals at work and their murders, investigators said Wells shot and killed the men. A jogger, running by the communication station, told officials he heard a loud metal hitting metal sound during the time of the incident.
Hopkins was found dead, lying on his back in the Rigger Shop, an antenna maintenance room, with one gunshot wound to his torso, as well as other damage to his mouth, nose and right arm.
Belisle was murdered in another room with a single gunshot wound to his torso.
After allegedly murdering his co-workers, Wells went back to his house and made calls to supervisors as well as the dead men to try and establish an alibi. He told them he had a flat tire and would be running late.
A forensic investigation later proved his alibi to be a lie, the document alleges. Investigators said the nail was shot into the tire using a nail gun and was never driven on.
Nancy Wells, the wife of the suspected murderer, was in Anchorage at the time of the event. When she arrived back in Kodiak, investigators escorted her back into her home. Nancy Wells brought them to where their gun collection was normally stored, but found things missing. She told them “that’s where they normally go.”
Co-workers and supervisors described Wells as a disgruntled employee.
Currently, the U.S. Attorneys office is only seeking the life in prison, but said they haven’t ruled out the death penalty.
“The murder counts at this time carry a maximum of life in prison,” said U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler. “They are death penalty eligible offenses. At this point the maximum penalty as charged is life in prison. What that means is that there has been no decision on whether the death penalty will be sought.”
According to Loeffler, that’s because the decision to seek the death penalty is a long process that needs to be investigated in Washington D.C. But she said that process has already begun, due to the nature of the crimes.
Wells will be back in Federal Court on Monday for a bail hearing.