Mark Becker's parents: Iowa must improve mental health treatmen - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Mark Becker's parents: Iowa must improve mental health treatment

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PARKERSBURG (KWWL) -

Joan and Dave Becker, the parents of convicted killer Mark Becker, are on a mission to help Iowans better understand mental illness and improve Iowa's treatment of mental health patients They talk about how their son's mental illness played a role in the murder of A-P football coach Ed Thomas.

"This was a great man. I have very fond memories of coach," says Dave Becker, the father of the young man convicted of killing Aplington-Parkersburg teacher and coach, Ed Thomas in 2009.

Dave Becker is left to deal with the harsh reality that his middle son, Mark Becker, shot and killed Ed Thomas in front of more than 20 students in a makeshift weight room on June 24, 2009.

Dave Becker was an all-conference player on Ed Thomas' first team at Parkersburg in 1975.  The two men remained close friends over the years within the Parkersburg community. For Dave Becker, it remains a difficult reality with which to deal."Probably time is a healer. In some aspects, it's as fresh as it was in the days following. We've relied on our faith. We don't walk alone," Dave says.

Now, four years after the Ed Thomas murder, Dave, and his wife, Joan, have started sharing their story of what it's like to be the parents of the man who committed such a terrible crime.

It's the story of what their family went through and their walk with Iowa's mental health system, and how they believe that system failed their son, Mark. Joan says it helps cope with what happened and is therapeutic.

She is writing a book about her son's mental illness and hopes to help thousands of other families dealing with similar mental health symptoms. Joan says, "You share what our family went through and you hope it can help and impact others. I've had many people come back to me and contact me and say, I heard you speak. Although it's difficult  to share our story, it's worth it."

The Becker's have decided they do not want to live in isolation. "That's not going to help other families cope or go through the system, or try to navigate the system that's so difficult to do these days."

Right now, Mark Becker is serving his life prison term at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville. He will never be paroled. He has been diagnosed with  paranoid schizophrenia. His mother, Joan,says, while her middle son is undergoing treatment and receives medications, he is still hearing voices and has hallucinations.

In the Ed Thomas murder, Becker allegedly heard voices which told him to kill Coach Thomas. "He said, Mom and Dad, I just want you to know that I never meant to hurt my friend Ed Thomas….I'm so sorry for what I did. So, it told us, he recognizes what he did, and he recognizes it was wrong. But, at the same time,it was so right to him to do something like this because of the mental state he was in. And, that's absolutely an insane thought. We know that.  Mark thought so much of Ed Thomas and had the utmost respect for Ed, and for him to tell us and share that meant a lot to us."

While looking over some old family photographs, Joan Becker came across one which reminded her that Mark was in a rock band in high school which even played once at the A-P prom. The name of the band:  Bipolar Dancing.

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