Police: Suspect admits killing Iowa high school football coach

February 16, 2010|By Nigel Duara | Baltimore Sun reporter

ALLISON, Iowa — A tearful former football player told Iowa police that he repeatedly shot his high school coach because he believed him to be a devil who turned students "into dead people," according to an interview with the murder suspect recorded just hours after Ed Thomas' death.

The scratchy, muddled audio recording of 24-year-old Mark Becker's confession was played to a packed Butler County courtroom on the second day of his trial for first-degree murder. Becker has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors say Becker calmly walked into the weight room at Aplington-Parkersburg High School on the morning of June 24 and killed Thomas in front of a group of teenage students.

"I put one in his head, then I put two more in his head, then I put one in the knee," Becker said in the recording of his interview with Division of Criminal Investigation agent Chris Callaway less than two hours after Thomas was shot dead. "I emptied the clip and left it empty."

Callaway testified that Becker said during the interview that he felt "no guilt or shame" about the slaying, although he had cried as he confessed to the killing. Becker's voice trembled at times during the recording.

Becker told Callaway that as he approached Thomas, his former coach turned and greeted him. "And I shot him," Becker said, adding, "It's a great thing. It's so good."

The suspect has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and his attorneys have said that they will try to show he is a paranoid schizophrenic who had not taken his prescribed medication the night before the shooting.

In the interview, Becker spoke in a monotone about why he wanted to kill Thomas, the 2005 NFL High School Coach of the Year and a leader in rebuilding Parkersburg after a huge tornado wiped out about one-third of the town and killed six people in 2008.

"He's a devil, he's a devil tyrant, he's suppressing the kids out here," Becker said on the recording. "We can hardly breathe at night. He comes through and he turns us into fish and he turns us into animals and he turns us into dead people. He won't let us be our heavenly selves. He's been doing it forever."

Becker said that after the shooting he told the students present that they were free. Six students who witnessed the shooting have already testified.

"I walked out and said, 'be free,'" Becker exclaimed. "You go in there and kick him if you want to, but you're free. I said, 'be free.'

"It's done, it's done, it's over."

During the interview, Becker told Callaway that he saw the devil, "a horned beast," in the room with them.

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