The man convicted of killing two Coast Guard employees at the communications station on the Kodiak Coast Guard base in April of 2012 stood before Judge Ralph Beistline on Tuesday for sentencing.
Judge Beistline gave 63-year-old James Wells a sentence of two life terms for the killing of retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Boatswain’s Mate Richard Belisle and Electrician’s Mate First Class James Hopkins.
Wells also received two more life terms for using a firearm in a violent crime.
The sentence handed down was the same as the prosecution recommended.
Wells went to trial in April of this year, and after almost a month in court, was found guilty of Murder by a 15-member federal jury. Over 100 witnesses took the stand at his trial. The jury deliberated for only 6 hours before handing down a verdict.
Calling Wells an executioner, Judge Beistline said to a packed courtroom at sentencing, “One thing is clear to me, James Wells is a cold-blooded killer.”
It was determined by the jury that Wells went to the rigging shop, where he worked as a rigger with the two victims, and shot them dead at approximately 7 am on April 12th of 2012. The murder weapon was never found and there were no eye-witnesses to the incident. Wells called in to the shop after the killings and reported that he had gotten a flat tire and that was why he was late to work that day.
But, the prosecution contended that Wells drove to the airport parking lot, switched vehicles, taking his wife’s car, which was parked at the airport while she was away in Anchorage, waited for Hopkins to drive by on his way to work, followed him to the rigging shop where all three worked, then shot and killed Hopkins and Belisle. They used as evidence, a blurred image of a blue vehicle traveling to and from the station at the time of the murders in footage from a security camera near the area.
The prosecution obtained a witness who testified that he had left a safe with Wells in the 1990s, that safe contained a .44 caliber Smith and Wesson, as well as other guns. That Smith and Wesson went missing from the safe with no explanation of its disappearance.
Wells never took the stand.
Wells will most likely appeal his conviction as well as his sentence. If his conviction stands, Wells will never see the outside of prison for the rest of his life.