Prep Football: Town struggles to understand coach’s slaying
PARKERSBURG, Iowa ó In the years after Mark Becker graduated from high school, friends say he drifted from the community where he played football for the town’s beloved coach.
There were failed attempts at college, minor dustups with the law and trouble with drugs and alcohol. At 24, he was a cook at a Cedar Falls pizza restaurant and no longer the friendly “cute guy” from his days at Aplington-Parkersburg High.
“He wasn’t the same guy,” said Sara Madsen, a friend who graduated with Becker. “He was way more quieter. He just wouldn’t say much. I said to him, ‘What’s going on? We never see you anymore.”‘
Madsen never got an answer, and like the rest of Parkersburg is left wondering what could have compelled Becker to allegedly unload several shots from a handgun into his former coach, Ed Thomas, during an offseason team workout Wednesday morning. Becker was arrested a short time later in his parents’ driveway and charged with first-degree murder.
So far, detectives are refusing to answer questions about Becker’s possible motive. His attorney, Susan Flander, declined to discuss the case Thursday, and none of the 20-or-so players who were in the weight room have spoken publicly about what they saw, apparently told not to speak to reporters by school officials.
Becker, in isolation in Cerro Gordo County jail 40 miles away, isn’t talking either.
He’s “just quiet, just stone-faced quiet,” jail administrator Shad Stoeffler said. “I think he’s still just trying to soak everything in.”
Investigators said they would pore over every last detail of Becker’s past ó including an incident last weekend in which police say he took a baseball bat to a home in nearby Cedar Falls and rammed his car through the home’s garage door. They haven’t said if they know why he targeted Thomas, the NFL’s 2005 high school coach of the year who guided several players to the NFL, including Green Bay Packers linebacker Aaron Kampman, Jacksonville Jaguars center Brad Meester, Detroit Lions defensive end Jared DeVries, and Denver Broncos center Casey Wiegmann.
In high school, Becker was popular and friendly with everyone, said Madsen, who had gathered with friends at a Parkersburg bar to discuss the killing.
“We loved him,” she said. “He was the cute guy in school.”
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