Mark Becker’s parents could’ve disappeared from the public eye after their son’s high profile murder trial earlier this year – but they haven’t. Instead, Joan and Dave Becker have become outspoken advocates for the mentally ill.
The Becker’s son, Mark – who was diagnosed with schizophrenia – was convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2009 shooting death of Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas. Joan says it’s been difficult, but she hopes talking about her experience will help others. “We just can not sit back and allow it to happen to other people,” Becker said.
After the trial, Joan told reporters “the system failed her son.” Today, she says the system is fixable. “I don’t think the laws and the standards in place today are working. It’s obvious to our family they’re not working,” Becker said. “If it was just broken in our situation, I would be shocked. I have heard from people across the nation who’ve faced a similar circumstance that our family has faced.”
Joan Becker attended several events around the state this week – designated as Mental Illness Awareness Week. Becker says she has “nothing to hide,” but tries to avoid discussing her son in public speeches. “I try instead to focus more on what areas we really struggled with – as a whole – in the communication factor, the treatment factor, the lack of accountability in certain agencies and even our own court system,” Becker said.
Prior to shooting Thomas, Mark Becker had a run-in with police and was placed in a mental health unit. He was released the day before the shooting, but police weren’t notified. Iowa lawmakers passed and Governor Culver signed a bill named for Ed Thomas earlier this year. The law requires Iowa hospitals to notify law enforcement when they release someone who’s been hospitalized for a mental evaluation – if that person has criminal charges filed against them or a pending arrest warrant.
Video of Ed Thomas Bill Signing Ceremony in March 2010: