The Coast Guard Murders

Main Coast Guard Base
Kodiak, Alaska

The double homicide I describe in this episode occurred on a secure Coast Guard base near the town of Kodiak, Alaska on Kodiak Island, approximately 60 miles from where I live. This murder happened toward the end of the most brutal winter anyone on Kodiak can remember, and when the police did not quickly apprehend the killer, tempers flared, and citizens carried firearms wherever they went. Our mail plane pilot, reporting the news to us on his weekly stop, compared the residents in town to a powder keg ready to blow. When it was all over, many in law enforcement and the judicial system praised the investigation, but at the time it seemed as if no one was doing anything to look for and apprehend the killer.

On April 12th, 2012, meteorologists predicted the temperature on Kodiak would soar to 50 degrees, and if it did, the residents of the island would enjoy the warmest day since October. Spirits lifted in Kodiak with this promise of spring, but the upbeat moods didn’t last long. Around 8:30 that morning, rumors spread through town indicating someone had been murdered at the Coast Guard base. When the rumors became more specific, and the whispers suggested the shooting happened at the rigger shop, the families of the small crew of men who worked there waited in dread. Soon, those rumors were confirmed. Not only had one man been killed, but two men were dead.

James Wells, left


Two killed in shooting at Coast Guard communications station. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 13, 2012.

Coast Guard killer thought still at large. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 16, 2012.

Shooting investigators focus on Bell’s Flats home. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 18, 2012.

FBI failing to reach Kodiak residents. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 27, 2012.

FBI asks Alaskans’ help as it seeks Coast Guard murder weapon. Kodiak Daily Mirror, May 16, 2012.

Kodiak man arrested for Coast Guard double murder. Kodiak Daily Mirror. February 15, 2013.

Man arrested in 2012 Alaska Coast Guard base deaths

Coast Guard double murder trial to begin Monday. Kodiak Daily Mirror, March 28, 2014.

Investigators testify in Coast Guard murder case. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 11, 2014.

Car expert testifies in Coast Guard double homicide. Kodiak Daily Mirror. April 16, 2014.

Investigators testify in Kodiak double murder case

Kodiak quiet before verdict. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 25, 2014.

Wells guilty of murdering two at Coast Guard. Kodiak Daily Mirror. April 25, 2014.

Update: Wells gets four consecutive life terms sentence. Kodiak Daily Mirror, July 8, 2014

Ninth Circuit Orders New Trial for Man Accused of Coast Guard Killings

FBI: Coast Guard murder suspect resented co-workers

Wells convicted, again, of Kodiak Coast Guard double murder

Wells convicted, again, of Kodiak Coast Guard double murder

Wells guilty of double murder


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Robin Barefield is the author of four Alaska wilderness mystery novels, Big Game, Murder Over Kodiak, The Fisherman’s Daughter, and Karluk Bones. Sign up to subscribe to her free, monthly newsletter on true murder and mystery in Alaska.