Parents of son who killed his high school football coach to share family story

Caitlin Yamada

On June 24, 2009, Mark Becker walked into the Falcon field house in Parkersburg, Iowa and shot his former high school football coach Ed Thomas in front of 22 students, three days after he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

In March 2010, Becker was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

On Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union, Mark’s parents, Joan and Dave Becker, will share their story and experiences coping with Mark’s paranoid schizophrenia. 

“The Beckers spent years visiting doctors, pleading with state mental health services, and trying to get their son help for what was finally diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia just three days before the unthinkable happened in their rural community of Parkersburg,” according to the Iowa State Lectures Program.

In 2015, Joan Becker published a book, Sentenced to Life, sharing how their family experience “served as the catalyst for her to become an advocate and public speaker for individuals with mental illness.”

“The Beckers hope their message will help other families, caregivers and professionals understand how they can make a difference in moving forward and improving our mental health system,” according to the Lectures Program.

Representatives from the ISU Police Department and Student Health and Wellness will be at the event to share information on campus resources during the Q&A discussion. 

This lecture is part of National Recovery Month, which is held in September to educate and raise awareness about mental health and substance use. After the lecture, the Story County Metal Health Resource fair will be held in the South Ballroom.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, National Alliance on Mental Illness on Campus, Story County Mental Health Expo, Student Counseling Services and the Committee on Lectures.