U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that a jury of 6 women and 6 men, found James Michael Wells guilty of the murders of Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Petty Officer Richard Belisle on April 12, 2012. Both Hopkins and Belisle were murdered at U.S. Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak.
“We are pleased with the conviction of James Wells, but it cannot in any way make up for the tragic loss of Petty Officer James Hopkins and Mr. Richard Belisle,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp. “On behalf of the entire Coast Guard, our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to their family, friends and shipmates, and we will continue to honor their legacy of dedicated service to our nation.”
Wells, 62, was arrested on Feb. 15, 2013, under a federal arrest warrant based on a criminal complaint, and was indicted on Feb. 19, 2013. Wells was convicted on all six counts of the indictment: two counts of 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).
Loeffler prosecuted the case along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder, and Capt. Kathleen A. Duignan,who was appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, with support from Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Wilson.
“We commend the Department of Justice and our partner law enforcement agencies for ensuring justice was served and James Wells was held accountable for these murders,” said Vice Adm. Charles W. Ray, commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area. “We hope this verdict brings closure to this chapter of tragedy in the lives of the Belisle and Hopkins families, our Coast Guard men and women and the people of Kodiak.”
Loeffler notes that the conviction comes after an extensive investigation led by the FBI, with support from the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Alaska State Troopers.
“This was a long road to justice for the families of Richard Belisle and James Hopkins, the United States Coast Guard community and the citizens of Kodiak,” said Loeffler. “The guilty verdicts were the result of the superb investigative effort of the FBI and Coast Guard Investigative Service, and I am very proud of the work of the members of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska and our Special Assistant U.S. Attorney from the U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate General who, with professionalism and dedication, worked to present that investigation to the jury and convict the man responsible for brutally murdering two innocent men while they were at work serving their country and their community.”