The former Aplington-Parkersburg football player accused of killing A-P coach Ed Thomas last month is pleading not guilty to the crime.  Twenty-four-year-old Mark Becker of Parkersburg is accused of first degree murder for shooting the coach in the football team’s weight-lifting facility on June 24th.

Becker has filed a written plea of not guilty.  Becker has also filed a plea of not guilty to a series of charges related to a crime spree that happened the weekend before the murder. Becker bashed a home in Cedar Falls with a baseball bat, rammed his vehicle into a garage, then led police on a high speed chase.

Becker was admitted to a Waterloo hospital for psychiatric evaluation and his release is the subject of debate. Police say they asked to be notified so they could charge Becker in connection with the weekend crime spree. Hospital administrators insist their staff had not been asked to notify authorities when Becker was released.

Susan Flander, an attorney who supervises the public defender’s office in Mason City, has been assigned to represent Becker in court. Becker is being held in the Cerro Gordo County Jail in Mason City.

Becker’s criminal record includes a 2005 drunken driving conviction. In 2008, Becker pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and misdemeanor serious assault and served four days in jail. This past January, Becker was arrested and charged with drug possession. A sheriff’s deputy says he pulled Becker over during a traffic stop and found a glass meth pipe and a digital scale.