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James Michael Wells sentenced to life for 2012 USCG CommSta Kodiak double murders

Coast Guardsman Mike Yrjana helps with the search for the murder weapon. KMXT File Photo/ Jennifer Canfield.
Coast Guardsman Mike Yrjana helps with the search for the murder weapon. KMXT File Photo/ Jennifer Canfield.

  UPDATED Jan. 8 to include background information in an audio version of story.

A Kodiak man will spend his life in prison after being sentenced to six life terms in the 2012 murders of two co-workers at the Coast Communication Station in Kodiak.

KMXT’s Maggie Wall has more.

Click arrow to listen to report, or continue reading below.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason on Tuesday morning ordered James Michael Wells to serve for life on each of the six counts.

The counts include two charges each of murder in the first degree, murder of an officer or employee of the United States, and possession and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Wells was found guilty in an October 2019 trial.

This was the second trial and convictions for Wells on charges that he shot to death his fellow Coast Guard Communication Station workers at the facility near Kodiak’s Buskin Lake.

The original 2014 trial was thrown out, after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the convictions and ordered a retrial with a new judge.

Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins, an electronics technician, was 41-year-old, and Richard Belisle was a 51-year-old civilian employee at the time of the killings.

Prosecutors alleged Wells was unhappy that he had become increasingly irrelevant on the job through the advancement of the victims.

At the October trial, prosecutors presented evidence and witnesses they said showed Wells had developed a jealous rage, drove his wife’s blue SUV to the communications station and then sneaked inside to shoot the two victims with a .44-caliber revolver.

They said Wells then lied about getting a flat tire on his own vehicle to explain why he had not also been at work when the murders occurred.

We had help with this story from Alaska Public Radio’s Casey Grove.

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Following is the original post on this story.

BREAKING   BREAKING   BREAKING

This is a breaking story.  KMXT will have more information in Wednesday’s newscasts.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason on Tuesday morning sentenced James Michael Wells to life in prison on all six counts related to the 2012 murder of two co-workers at the Coast Guard Communication Station in Kodiak. 

Wells lost his appeal of the original decision in October, 2019. The retrial came after guilty verdicts in Wells’ first trial, in 2014, was thrown out.

Following is a copy of the information on the PACER.gov website which KMXT is posting here as it appears on PACER. We have added some formatting to make it easier to read.

 This is a breaking story. KMXT will have more on this story as information becomes available.

From PACER.gov.

Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Sharon L. Gleason: Imposition of Sentence held 9:33 a.m. to 10:35 a.m. and 10:47 a.m. to 11:10 a.m. on 1/7/2020 for James Michael Wells (1).

Motion to Appear Telephonically 1351 ; GRANTED.

Court and counsel heard re objections to paragraphs 80 and 86 of the PSR; overruled.

Victim impact statements read into the record. Victim impact statements heard.

Allocution heard.

Court stated findings pursuant to sentencing guidelines.

  • Defendant sentenced to Life on Counts 1 and 3 to be served concurrently to each other and consecutive to all other terms;
  • Life term on Counts 2 and 4 to be served concurrent to each other and consecutive to all other terms;
  • Life term on Count 5 to be served consecutive to all other terms;
  • and Life term on Count 6 to be served consecutive to all other terms,
  • $600 Special Assessment,
  • Restitution to be determined. Restitution hearing set for 2/12/2020 at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom 2 before Sharon L. Gleason.

Government briefing due by 2/5/2020, defendant’s briefing due by 2/10/2020.

Court advised defendant of appeal rights.

Court directed the defendant remain in district until resolution of the restitution issue.

Court precluded the defendant from transferring, conveying or doing anything with respect to property belonging to the defendant.

APPEARANCES: Defendant present, in-custody; Christina M. Sherman, AUSA; Steven E. Skrocki, AUSA; Kelley Leann Stevens, AUSA; Gary Colbath, FPD; Peter Camiel, CJA; Charlene Hensel, USPO; Sonja L. Reeves, Official Court Reporter (RMC, COURT STAFF) (Entered: 01/07/2020)