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Coast Guard shooter to serve four consecutive life terms

Wells arrest
Jim Wells (left) is shown in this official USCG photo from a project on Shemya Island in July 2011. Also shown are the two men Wells is accused of killing in April 2012, retired Chief Boatswain’s Mate Richard Belisle (second from left) and USCG Petty Officer James Hopkins (second from right). Photo by Charly Hengen/USCG.

The man convicted of double murder at the Kodiak Coast Guard Base two years ago will spend the rest of his life in federal prison. 63-year-old James Wells was sentenced today to four consecutive life sentences in Anchorage federal court by Judge Ralph Beistline.

During sentencing, Wells maintained his innocence, saying ‘we all suffered for this tragedy.’ His defense attorney, federal public defender Rich Curtner, said “the killer is still out there.”

However, in handing down his sentence, Beistline said Wells was a cold-blooded killer who has shown no remorse. He said Wells was the only person who had motive and opportunity in the deaths of his coworkers, Richard Belisle and James Hopkins.

The evidence was overwhelming, Beistline said, adding “the real killer is sitting at the table in front of us.”

U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said after the sentencing that justice was served.

“This was really one of the most planned, premeditated and cold blooded murders that we’ve ever seen.”

The federal prosecutors’ case was largely circumstantial, as the murder weapon, a 44-magnum handgun, was never found, and there were no witnesses. Nevertheless, the jury found him guilty of first degree murder on April 25th after deliberating less than a day. The trial lasted 19 days.

The widows of both men Wells killed also spoke at the sentencing, and both told him to “rot in hell.”

Nicola Belisle said that no sentence would ever be enough.

Wells was not arrested until 10 months after the murders while the FBI tried to build the case against him. Belisle said she spent that time in fear of her life, worried Wells would also kill her or her children in an attempt to stop the investigation. She spoke of sitting in her home across the street from Wells’ house with a loaded firearm, waiting for him to come after her.

“I’m still having to look at his house every single day. I want to burn it down. It needs to go away. That’s my ultimate goal. So that I don’t have to look at it for the rest of my life, and my children, my potential grandchildren that they don’t ever have to sit in our family home and see that house.”

Belisle may get that chance, as Judge Beistline said the victims’ families are due restitution.

Wells can appeal the sentencing within 14 days.

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