Joan Becker

March 28, 2017

Ed Thomas Bill

Joan Becker

“I’ve been publicly speaking about Mark and his illness for about 8 years.”

“My son said, how will you ever heal completely if you keep opening that

“It’s hard for me to explain the strength that it gives me, being able to explain my sons story.”

“We have nothing to lose by sharing our story.”

People getting help – that’s what keeps me going.

On June 24. 2009, I was at work. My husband was at work. It was 830 in the morning and i was on my phone at work. I could not be home alone with my son Mark, it was not safe for me to be home alone with him.

People in the shop were talking and Dave knew something was up so he asked around what was going on and someone said that Coach Thomas has been shot. Dave’s response was, “No I don’t think so. That’s a small town.” Dave thought it was a heart attack. “You see, we had been going to Sunday school at the church where coach Thomas was the teacher for most of the time. Not only did coach Thomas ask for prayers for his heart condition, but coach Thomas was probably one of the five people who knew about Mark’s illness [depression].”

Mark’s intent that day, he believed that god was telling him to take the life of Ed Thomas, myself and Dave. Because he thought we were poisoning people in the community. He felt and believed with his whole mind and heart that this was something he was doing for the betterment of the community. Theres no doubt in my husband and I’s mind that Mark was insane at this time.

–Why that day?

We don’t know the answer to that. What caused it to culminate that day? I don’t know the answer to that.

We never believed that our son- he’s such a gentle soul- that he would ever take the life of another person; he wouldn’t even take the life of an animal.

He believed that Ed was sending goons to hurt Mark. He believed that Ed was ordering them to hurt him. He really believed he was being attacked. Never, ever, ever did he ever talk about killing anyone other than himself. He threatened himself several times.

–When you noticed a shift in his personality?

It’s easy to look back now and say when we noticed it. I was a journal-er, I took notes. It was a way of coping with raising three sons. When I look back at my notes and journals, some of the stats that came together were frightening. we were so immersed in what was happening in the day-to-day life that we didn’t notice the bigger picture.

Why, when you’ve got everything going for you, out for sports, band, vocal, a good job, he was a leader amongst his peers…  why, we always wondered, why did you do this? When he was smoking marijuana. We never got the answer then. But now, we know that we should have gotten individual and family counseling. Now we know he was losing the ability to recognize the reality between the voices in his head.

Mark told me, ever since I remember existing, the voices have always been there and they scared me. I cried when he told me that. It really hurts me to know that he cried himself to sleep because of the voices.

Mark graduated from high school on a high note.

The patterns that started to develop is that he enrolled and dropped out of college three separate times. He would start out really well, really motivated, really good grades then towards the mid and end of semester, it would die out and he would start giving up. Mark tried self-medicating; using heavy drugs.

I never felt like he was going to do anything really bad, it’s just he got so physical during those mental episodes. He looked different, his voice was different, he was acting so different during these episodes it just felt like a loose cannon.

I called, I e-mailed, I called, I e-mailed, I called, I e-mailed. I would’ve gone in person and said, you have to listen to me.

“What is it going to take for us to get the help that our son desperately needs? It shouldn’t have taken prison, it did, but it shouldn’t have taken prison to get our son the help he needs.”

“We have used the jails to stabilize our mentally ill for way too long.”

–What was it like to sit in courtroom and listen to testimony?

Grueling. It is amazing when people are on the stand, it shocks me, the half-truths that are being told. Shocks me.

They just didn’t tell the whole truth. And it’s really, really hard to see.

The biggest thing that I would’ve liked to be brought out was that there was nothing normal about Marks behavior before he stepped into that weight room.

So, Dave confirmed that yes, Mark was involved and he shot Ed. Dave, myself, and Scott (the youngest son) had spent hours in the Sherriffs office.

I will tell you what. God was there with us. When your youngest son, who is 17 years old, is constantly praying out loud to bring his mom and dad comfort.

All of the law enforcement were adament in telling us to not blame ourselves, Dave and I. It didn’t matter where he [Mark] would’ve gotten the weapon; in his state of mind, he would’ve found any weapon to carry out what he was going to do.

The night that it happened my whole family and I got out for the night, to stay at my parents in Clear Lake, IA.

The next day, the rumors were flying. It was crazy. But, I thank God. If we hadn’t had Scott, I don’t think that Dave and I would’ve ever stepped out of our house or would ever be this far into healing.

–forgiveness process? was there a lot of anger?

It was really hard for us at first, because we were hearing about all this forgiveness that was taking place and I didn’t know what forgiveness that people were talking about.

“I have such peace about it.”


This has been a process over the last 7 years. He kept fighting the idea that he did anything wrong. He didn’t really remember everything until the trial, when he had to read everything that he had done. But the biggest overcoming

“I can honestly say I wasn’t myself in any of this.” – Mark Becker


The biggest thing I kept saying over and over and over, “How could this have happened?” We have tried so hard to get our son help and no one would listen to us; how could this be happening to Ed now?

There’s many who say that Satan tried to attack us.


–do you feel like this defines you as a person now?

I do belive it defines me. I prayed a lot after this happened. I’m not going to be quiet any longer, we had tried so hard for our son before and so I decdied I’m not going to stay quiet. I signed up for this.


–the first football game after June

“That was terrifying. Because it was our first public outing since the incident. The media was crazy because ESPN was there. The community supported us. So many things were surreal.

“God was the glue that held us together.”


We were treated with utmost respect. No one was pushing interviews or anything like that, everything was in our ballcourt. When the trial ended, we were sort of bursting out the seams; we wanted the world to know the rest of the story. So, they were very, very respectful. There was not one crew there that they had dry eyes by the time it was done; they were very compassionate and kind. The only media we refused to talk to was TrueTV. Because they had done the whole trial already and because the Thomas family had already said, let our community be, no more interviews and we wanted to respect that. We didn’t like the other interviews that they were doing and what was being said, because it wasn’t the whole truth so then we just didn’t want to interview. Just simply didn’t.

“We didn’t have to disagree or agree with him. We just had to listen to him.” [about Marks illness].

Mark didn’t fall through the cracks, he fell through a ravine.

I’m proud of him, he hasn’t quit on life and he’s trying to make good. He’s not giving up on himself.

I just saw Mark last week. Ever since he was arrested since this instant, he has been diagnosed and is taking medication. He is managing his illness.

He’s in general population and doing fairly good.

They’ve been really working hard with him. But he’s doing well. He’s down to one medication and he started out with four. He read a book by a psychiatrist that had paranoid schizophrenia. After reading that book he finally realized and admitted that he had a brain disease.

Now he recognizes the voices in his head and that they’re not real.

He works full-time at the prison and he cleans. He loves to have things spick and spam. He tries to help other inmates get used to the system. He works and encourages them, ‘dont quit taking your medication, don’t quick talking to your doctor; you’re doing well, keep going at it’.

HOMEWORK: Write a profile of Joan Becker.


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