Alaska man gets 4 life terms in Coast Guard deaths

  • Tuesday, July 8, 2014 11:13pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE (AP) — An Alaska man was sentenced Tuesday to four consecutive life terms in the 2012 shooting deaths of two co-workers at a Coast Guard communications station that mystified an island community for nearly a year before an arrest was made.

Prosecutors had contended that James Wells resented the growing influence of the two victims at the rigger shop where he was a nationally recognized antenna expert. They said Wells meticulously planned an alibi, sneaked onto the station and gunned the men down.

A federal jury found the 63-year-old Wells guilty in April after a 19-day trial. On Tuesday, he maintained that he had nothing to do with the shootings on Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

Wells, sporting a long white beard and thinning gray hair, made his comments after the widows of the victims spoke. Both women said Wells had destroyed their lives and the lives of their families.

In the circumstantial case, it took a jury only one day to find him guilty of two counts each of first-degree murder, murder of an officer or employee of the United States, and possession of a firearm in a crime of violence.

Two of the consecutive life sentences imposed by U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline on Tuesday were for each man’s murder and the other two were for the firearm violence. The judge also imposed life sentences for the officer murder charges, to run concurrently with the murder sentences.

Federal prosecutors earlier said they would not seek the death penalty if Wells was convicted.

“Hopefully the families can go forward having received justice today,” U.S. Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler said at a news conference after the sentencing.

Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro

More in News

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna bumps vote on use of accessory housing as short-term rentals

An accessory dwelling unit is a subordinate, detached dwelling unit located on a lot or parcel with an existing residence

Foliage surrounds the Soldotna Police Department sign on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Foliage surrounds the Soldotna Police Department sign on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Law enforcement to host women’s self-defense class in January

Within 48 hours of the course being advertised, 120 women had signed up to participate

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Local hunter credits community members for Thanksgiving rescue

Glover said he didn’t even strike out from his home to go hunting

In this July 13, 2007, photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
EPA proposes restrictions to block Pebble Mine

Mine developer Pebble Limited Partnershi called the EPA’s decision a preemptive veto

Architect Nancy Casey speaks in front of a small gathering at this year’s final Fireside Chat presented by the Kenai Watershed Forum on Nov. 30, 2022, at Kenai River Brewing in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Building with the environment in mind

Kenai Watershed Forum’s Fireside Chats conclude

Johni Blankenship signs her name after being sworn in as Soldotna City Clerk at a city council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Blankenship sworn in as Soldotna city clerk

Blankenship comes to the City of Soldotna from the Kenai Peninsula Borough

Demonstrators hold signs supporting Justin Ruffridge and Jesse Bjorkman for state office on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Nov. 8 election results certified

The outcomes of local races for state office remain unchanged

The Kenai Peninsula Borough administration building is photographed on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
4 candidates vie for borough mayoral seat

The special election is slated for Feb. 14

Spruce trees are dusted with snow on Dec. 22, 2020, in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska. Some areas of the refuge are open to harvest of holiday trees for non-commercial uses beginning Thanksgiving. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Snowmachine use permitted in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge beginning Dec. 1

Areas now available include those “traditionally open to snowmachine use”

Most Read