Joan's Story: Mark Becker's mother speaks out - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Joan's Story: Mark Becker's mother speaks out

Posted: Updated:
PARKERSBURG (KWWL) - June 24th, 2009. A community in shock. Legendary high school football coach Ed Thomas shot and killed in the school's bus barn-turned weight room.

Joan Becker heard the news and called her husband.

"I said, 'Dave, I heard Coach Thomas has been shot.' And the defining quiet on the other end of the phone told me everything," said Joan Becker. 

The shooter was Joan Becker's middle son, Mark. He was 24 years old at the time.

"No, this can't be happening after all we've done trying to get Mark help and no one would listen. This can't be happening," Becker remembers thinking. 

Joan Becker knew something was different with her son for years, but it was after the tornado hit Parkersburg in 2008 they noticed things were coming to a head.

Mark was living out of state at the time with his brother.

"We were starting to get phone calls about, that we were trying to get in his mind, and 'It's OK, you guys are busy helping with the tornado, don't worry about me, I know you're trying to get in my mind,'" said Becker. 

Mark moved back to the area, but the episodes didn't stop.

Joan says Mark felt like he was being attacked by goons, and his family was conspiring against him.

"Frightening," she remembered. "I wake up in the middle of the night because he is pressing so hard on my stomach, I can't breathe ... He said, 'You took me inside your body and you need to let me get out of your body,'" said Becker. 

Mark was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after he was incarcerated.

Joan says they did everything they could to help him. They spoke to their family doctor, sheriff deputies, counselors. Mark had two separate hospital stays.

Nothing helped. But Joan isn't pessimistic.

"Just because our son fell through the cracks doesn't mean someone else's son or daughter has to fall through the cracks," said Becker. 

Now, Joan is trying to advocate for families who deal with mental health. She has even wrote a book called "Sentenced to Life, The Mark Becker Story."

It's a journey Joan is taking with her son Mark -- even if he is behind bars.

"It really meant a lot to me -- the tears that rolled down his face, and the tight hug, and him thanking me for writing it," said Becker. 

Joan says they visit Mark about once a month. She says he is doing quite well right now and taking ownership of his illness.

"He suffered terribly with what his body had done that day, and it took hem a long time to come to terms with it," Joan said. "We believe he has forgiven himself, and we're very happy for that and very thankful for that."

Becker says she is also hopeful her the book will help the Thomas family better understand the Beckers' perspective on the tragedy.

Aaron Thomas told KWWL he has not yet read the book, and isn't sure he will.
Powered by Frankly