Wife: Alaska man innocent in Coast Guard deaths

AP News
Posted: Feb 16, 2013 5:53 PM
Wife: Alaska man innocent in Coast Guard deaths

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The wife of an Alaska man arrested in last year's shooting deaths of two employees at a Coast Guard air station said Saturday that her husband is innocent.

Nancy Wells told The Associated Press she expects her husband "will be fully exonerated."

"I have full faith in my husband's innocence," she said. "I have no faith in the quality of the investigation."

James Michael Wells of Kodiak is accused in a federal murder complaint of killing Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Richard Belisle on Kodiak Island on April 12.

Another Coast Guard member found the victims shortly after the two would have arrived for work at the station, which monitors radio traffic from ships and planes. Their bodies were found in the rigger building, where antennas are repaired.

The 61-year-old Wells was arrested Friday. He's expected to appear in court next week in Anchorage. Jail records show he is in custody at the Anchorage Jail.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis said Friday from Kodiak that, at the time of the incident, Wells was working with the victims as a civilian Coast Guard employee at the communications station. Francis added that she didn't know his current employment status.

FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez in Anchorage declined to discuss specifics of the case Friday evening. He has said the complaint and underlying affidavit are under court seal. He said he expected those documents to be unsealed next week.

The U.S. attorney in Alaska announced the arrest late Friday. A message left with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage Saturday wasn't immediately returned.

Hopkins, 41, was an electronics technician from Vergennes, Vt. Belisle, 51, was a former chief petty officer who continued service to the Coast Guard as a civilian employee.

Amy Belisle told the Kodiak Daily Mirror Friday she knew an arrest would come eventually in her father's death.

She said her mother, Nicola Belisle, was overjoyed when they learned of the arrest. "My sisters are not in the state, but they're also super excited because it's a little bit more closure, but it's also sad," she told the Daily Mirror.

The Kodiak Island Coast Guard base is home to cutters, helicopters and rescue swimmers that aid mariners in the Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean.