Prosecutors say a 24-year-old northeast Iowa man made a “conscious decision” to kill his former high school football coach, while one of Mark Becker’s defense lawyers says his client was suffering from visions that led him to believe the popular coach was the devil.

Lawyers delivered opening statements this morning in the first degree murder trial of Becker, a former Aplington-Parkersburg football player who is accused of shooting coach Ed Thomas to death last June. Prosecutors say Becker took a .22 calibur revolver from his parent’s home in Parkersburg, then visited a number of places in Parkersburg early that morning, trying to find out where the coach was.

Once Becker got to the school’s weight room, prosecutor Scott Brown says Becker fired nine shots in full view of about 20 witnesses.

“Mark Becker had a mental illness. We won’t dispute that,” Brown said. “…Mental illness does not equal insanity.” Becker’s defense team argued their client was seeing visions and had somehow confused his former coach with “Satan.” A number of students who saw Becker shoot coach Thomas will testify this afternoon.

(Reporting by Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids)