6,870,000 pageviews

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Kodiak Island Coast Guard Double Murder Case

     There are locations in the country where murder, while still shocking, is commonplace and therefore predictable. This is true in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Washington D. C. Philadelphia and St. Louis. In the sparsely populated regions of the United States criminal homicide is usually an uncommon event, and double-murder is unheard of. But wherever there are people, even if just a few of them, murder can raise its ugly head. That's what happened in Alaska at the Coast Guard Base on Kodiak Island 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.

     Home to Coast Guard cutters, helicopters and rescue swimmers who come to the aid of mariners on the Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean, the base is populated by 1,300 Coast Guard and civilian employees. The Base is located near Kodiak, a town of 6,300. The Base's Communications Station, the Coast Guard's "ears in the sky", monitors radio traffic from ships and planes.

     At eight in the morning of April 12, 2012, a civilian employee of the Communications Station, upon entering the rigger building where radio antennas were repaired, found the bodies of two fellow employees. Both men had been shot to death. The victims were identified as 51-year-old Richard Belisle and James Hopkins, 41. Belisle, a former Petty Officer, had stayed on at the station as a civilian employee after his retirement. Petty Officer 1st Class Hopkins was an Electrician's Mate.

     Because the men had been murdered on U.S. Government property, the FBI had investigative jurisdiction in the case. Agents were working on the double-murder with Alaska State Troopers. Investigators believed that the victims had been shot to death as they arrived for work sometime between seven and eight that morning. The obvious suspects were base employees who had access to the secured rigger building.

     One of the Communication Station employees who came under suspicion was 61-year-old James Michael Wells. Wells lived with his wife Nancy six miles from the base in the community of Bells Flats. Wells' blue 2001 Honda SUV was seen near the murder scene on the morning of the crime. A week after the murders FBI agents searched Wells' house. They did not, at that time, take him into custody.

     On May 17, 2012, Homeland Security Secretary Director Janet Napolitano, feeling the heat over the still unsolved double murder, issued a meaningless press statement that her department had put its full weight and resources behind the investigation.

     FBI agents, on February 2013, arrested James Wells on two charges of federal murder. The U.S. Magistrate denied the suspect bail. Two weeks later, Wells' wife Nancy, in speaking to an Associated Press reporter, said, "I have faith in my husband's innocence. I have faith in the quality of the investigation."

     In April 2014, a jury found James Wells, a disgruntled employee, guilty of double murder. The judge sentenced him to life. Wells appealed the conviction on grounds the prosecution testimony of a forensic psychologist describing the personality characteristics of workplace killers should not have been admitted into evidence against him.

     In December 2017, a three judge panel on the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed James Well's conviction on grounds the forensic psychologist's testimony was unconstitutionally prejudicial.

      In January 2020, following his second murder trial, the jury found James Wells guilty. The federal judge sentenced him to life in prison. 


  1. was assigned at the base 2001-2005....KNEW the retired cg guy ....heard people talk about the accused shooter.......... maybe in this case it was a mutual dislike thing that one guy ended up getting the drop on the other....

  2. lived in Kodiak from 1990 until 2001. knew the accused family. unbelievable.

  3. how come there are no pics of Mr. Wells?

  4. Is this the same clown who was a registered sex offender in Spokane County?