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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Alaska

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Kodiak Man Sentenced to Four Consecutive Life Sentences for Murder of Coast Gaurd Employees in Kodiak

Anchorage, Alaska-U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that today, Chief District Court Judge Ralph Beistline sentenced James Michael Wells to four consecutive life sentences for the murders of U.S. Coast Guard Electrician’s Mate First Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain’s Mate Richard Belisle on April 12, 2012. Both Hopkins and Belisle, who was working a Coast Guard civilian employee, were murdered at U.S. Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak.
Wells, 63, of Kodiak, was convicted after a 19-day jury trial on all six counts of the indictment: two counts murder in the first degree, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111, one for each victim; two counts of murder of an officer or employee of the United States, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114, one for each victim; and two counts of possession and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).
Wells was given one life sentence for the murder of Richard Belisle, counts 1 and 3 of the indictment, and a second consecutive life sentence for the murder of Petty Officer James Hopkins, counts 2 and 4 of the indictment. Wells was also given 2 additional consecutive life sentences, one for each victim, for using a firearm to commit the murders. There is no possibility of parole.
In a brief statement, Wells said that he was innocent, a claim rejected by Chief Judge Beistline: “There’s one thing I know, James Wells is a cold-blooded murderer. Any objective person would reach the same conclusion.” He found that Wells acted out of “anger, envy, and jealousy,” murdering his “competition” because he “could not compete” in the workplace anymore. He noted that Wells has showed no remorse, and that this level of “extreme criminal conduct” called for the maximum sentence.
Chief Judge Beistline also commented that the wives of both murdered men had attended the entire trial, and conducted themselves in a way that showed their strength of character.
Ms. Loeffler commended the strength and fortitude of the Belisle and Hopkins families throughout the investigation and the trial. She also commended the thoroughness and professionalism of the investigation, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with support from the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Alaska State Troopers.
U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler prosecuted the case along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder, and Captain Kathleen A. Duignan, U.S. Coast Guard, who was appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, with support from Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Wilson.

Updated February 9, 2015