The defense began presenting its case today in the Butler County murder trial of Mark Becker. The 24-year-old Becker has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting death of Aplington Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas last June.
Becker’s mother took the witness stand and said her son was hospitalized for mental issues three times before the shooting. Joan Becker said one of her son’s first episodes occurred in their home as she and her husband Dave were sleeping.
“Very violent…he ended up getting a bat downstairs, hitting walls downstairs, coming up and hitting doors in the kitchen. It went on for hours and hours and hours,” Becker said. The couple took Mark to the hospital where he stayed for one week.
Public Defender Susan Flander asked Joan Becker about another incident in November of 2008. Becker said she picked up her son after he was arrested for punching a person. The two had lunch together and Becker said her son was calm and apologetic.
“On the way home, he turned and started one of these episodes. He got very verbal…I was driving and I called home to let Dave know that Mark was getting a very verbal and I was a little concerned. Mark grabbed the phone from me and he broke it in half,” Becker said.
Flander asked, “When you say verbal, do you mean he was talking loudly or what?” Flander asked. “Yes, and swearing at me. He didn’t know I was his mother,” Becker said. Another episode occurred on Easter day 2009 as Mark joined his parents and grandparents for dinner.
“He turned and looked down the hall. He turned back and his whole facial features changed, his voice changed…immediately, it was split second, he was a different person,” Becker said. “How long can those episodes last to your knowledge?” Flander asked. “They can last an hour, they can last days,” Becker said.
Joan Becker says she did not notice anything unusual about her son on the morning Thomas was shot. Other witnesses today have included wrestling and football coaches who coached Mark Becker in high school and a Mason City psychologist.
By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids