Anchorage trial begins in Kodiak Coast Guard station killings

Casey Grove

A jury is seated in the Anchorage murder trial of James Wells, indicted in the workplace shooting deaths of two men at a Coast Guard communications station on Kodiak Island in April 2012.

Opening statements in the trial are set for Tuesday morning.

Federal prosecutors say Wells, 62, was an antenna rigger and a problem employee who became enraged with co-worker Richard Belisle, 51, and their supervisor, James Hopkins, 41. According to the February 2013 indictment, Wells planned the killings, drove his wife's vehicle to the station and shot Belisle and Hopkins just as their work shift was beginning. Wells later claimed to have been dealing with a flat tire at the time of the double homicide, prosecutors said.

Wells' defense attorneys said in their trial brief that investigators never found a murder weapon or any physical evidence linking Wells to the crime. There were also no eyewitnesses, nor a confession from Wells, the defense attorneys said.

Jury selection took all day Monday. The pool of potential jurors included residents of Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Kenai Peninsula, Bethel and Kodiak.

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks.

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