Man arrested in 2012 Kodiak Coast Guard double homicide

Casey Grove

Federal authorities arrested a Kodiak man Friday for allegedly shooting to death two men at a U.S. Coast Guard communications station on the island in April 2012.

Kodiak resident James Michael Wells, 61, is charged with murder in the deaths of Richard Belisle, 51, and James Hopkins, 41, according to a written statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office sent to reporters just before 5:40 p.m. Friday.

Hopkins, a Coast Guard electrician's mate, and Belisle, a retired boatswain's mate and civilian employee, were found dead at the communications station the morning of April 12, 2012. The station, a few miles from the Coast Guard's larger base on Kodiak, monitors and relays radio traffic from distant planes and ships.

FBI agents flew to Kodiak to investigate alongside the Coast Guard's own investigators. Residents of Kodiak Island -- 250 miles south of Anchorage and home to about 13,000 people -- worried they were in danger from a killer on the loose. Spokespersons for the FBI and Alaska State Troopers, who assisted in the investigation, repeatedly said they had no reason to think anyone was at risk.

Capt. Jesse Moore, the commanding officer of the Kodiak base, told the Associated Press after the shootings that he had not heard about any threats toward Belisle and Hopkins. The men worked on installation, maintenance and management of electronic equipment, Moore said.

About a week after the killings, the FBI asked for help from the public in identifying two vehicles: a white 2002 Dodge Ram pickup and a blue 2001 Honda CRV. The next month, the FBI released a statement saying agents wanted to talk to anyone in Alaska who had sold or otherwise transferred a Smith and Wesson Model 29 or Model 629 or any .44-caliber model of a magnum Taurus.

Kodiak residents told the Associated Press in later interviews that a co-worker of Belisle and Hopkins owned a blue Honda CRV and a white Dodge pickup. The Kodiak Daily Mirror and Anchorage TV station KTUU reported that investigators searched the co-worker's home.

The Coast Guard did not return phone calls seeking comment late Friday.

During the 10-month inquiry, the law enforcement officials released almost no details about how the killings were carried out and did not give any indication as to a possible motive. Few details of the case were known on Friday. Law enforcement officials revealed nothing further than saying Wells was charged and arrested.

U.S. Attorney Karen Loefller said Wells was arrested on a warrant based on a sealed criminal complaint, which federal prosecutors would not be releasing publicly Friday. She declined to comment on what evidence led to Wells' arrest.

Wells is expected to appear in federal court in Anchorage next week, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

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