Class Notes 3/28/17

Joan Becker- write profile

mother of Mark Becker who murdered Ed Thomas

publicly speaking for 6+ years

how will you ever heal completely if you keep opening up that wound- personal story gives her strength, “I so know that it is helping other people” “I don’t want any other mother or father sitting in our shoes” “we have nothing to lose by sharing our story”

hearing back from families and individuals that have gotten help because of their story keeps her going

never shied away from any question

June 24th 2009, 8:30 in the morning, wasn’t safe to be at home with Mark, was in Ames, cell phone started going crazy, Mark released early from mental health institution

went to Sunday school with Thomas’ for 30 years, Thomas was one of a few people who knew what was going on with Mark, pulled Becker’s aside and asked how Mark was doing and prayed for them

live out in the county, neighbor called and told Dave to get home and police were in their yard and looked like Mark was involved

Mark “believed that God was telling him to take the life of Ed Thomas and his parents” “he believed in his whole mind and heart that he was doing this for the better”

very difficult for jury to say “not guilty”, Iowa doesn’t have “guilty but insane”

spoken to college classes of judge in the case

“it’s difficult at best”

saw Mark last week, diagnosed and treated, medication, therapy, direct line to team of doctors, in Coralville, doing fairly well in general population, working hard to give him privileges, he read a book by a psychiatrist who had paranoid schizophrenia and finally admitted that he had an illness, “once he recognized that, we have seen such strides in his progress”, blessed to be able to visit him, making the most out of his life, works full time, mentors other inmates

proud of him, was under suicide watch for a long time, he will say “I love the Thomas family and there is no way I would’ve done that”

what caused it to culminate? don’t know the answer to that

never believed that he would take the life of anybody, only one time Ed Thomas’ name was mentioned, 9 months before during first blow psychotic episode but it was not just Thomas, believed they were all out to get him and wanted to talk sense into them, never did he talk about killing anyone other than himself

when did you notice shift?- easy to look back now, kept journals, stats that came together were frightening, so immersed day to day they couldn’t step back and look at the big picture, 16 years old was first sign, got caught with marijuana, first question was “why”, went along, were pretty naive, went to out patient program, never got the answer as to why, should’ve gotten into counseling right then, he was losing reality, voices started to take more control, when he was little wanted to sleep with parents, cried himself to sleep, voices had always been there and they scared me, he didn’t know what to say to his parents

urges to screen for mental health when speaking to school districts, could blow open success of right treatment for people with mental illness

“I didn’t want to admit that I was hearing voices because I didn’t want to be labeled as crazy” -Mark

drug usage- patterns: enrolled and dropped out of college 3 times, wondered if he was depressed, felt like he was a failure, he decided to self medicate- took heavy drugs, didn’t work- didn’t fix the issue, moved 12 times and had 11 different jobs during that time

when you as a parent are trying to love and support your child, you become so weary not knowing where to turn next

the first time he saw a psychiatrist was when he was in prison, 2 mental health committals within a few months, having horrific psychotic episodes, very dangerous for him and Joan, very physical during episodes, looked and sounded different during episodes, didn’t know what he was going to do

high speed chase in June

“shouldn’t have taken prison to get our son the help he needs”

working with crisis intervention training- need law enforcement to understand that there is so much going on with the families that when they call for help they’re exhausted and don’t know where to turn

no communication between agencies involved with mental health, need to treat the whole person, not just a piece- facility in Colorado that has all the pieces

“grueling” to sit in courtroom and listen to testimony, “really hard because they didn’t tell the whole truth”, no doubt that he did it but

couldn’t believe how people responded to questions on the stand, hard to be on the stand, everyone did their best but it’s still hard

Dave confirmed Mark was involved, wanted in sheriff’s office for questioning, spent hours there, “God was there with us, no doubt about it”, 17 year old son Scott praying out loud for his parents

DCI agent told them not to blame themselves, all of the law enforcement agents said the same thing

impressed by the support of law enforcement for family

family took them away for the night and protected them, not let them saw a tv, Jan Thomas said that they’re separating what Mark did from your family, they watched Aaron when he asked people to pray for the Beckers

easy as a mother to forgive him because she knew that he had no idea what he had done, harder to forgive the people who they felt had let them down when they were trying to get help for their son, Thomas family will have to forgive in their own time, Aaron has asked about how Mark is doing, personal decision for each of them to forgive Mark in their own time, Mark’s brothers have forgiven him

did Mark acknowledge it?- been a process, kept fighting the idea that he did anything wrong, didn’t really remember everything until the trial and he read the transcripts, took until the psychiatrists book, felt terrible, incredibly sorry, found some peace about it now

“why me, why Ed Thomas, I can honestly say I wasn’t myself when this happened” still hasn’t forgiven himself, hurts deeply, has apologized to his family many times

in shock right away, “how could this be happening” “we have tried so hard to get our son help and no one listened to us, how could this be happening to Ed now” took a long time for them to move beyond, wrote the book for her family, helped her put it to bed, something she needed to do

“my best friends in life are my family”

had to switch churches because of the reminders of Ed Thomas, could not heal with the constant reminders

terrifying to go to the first football game after it happened, on ESPN, media was crazy, “faith family football forever” was going to be proud of and supports Scott, the community supported them, shaking walking onto that field, it was surreal, ESPY’s was surreal

family has healed in different ways in different times but has always been glued together, “God kept us together”

treated with respect by media, no one demanded interviews, after the trial wanted them to know the rest of the story, no one had dry eyes by the time interviews were done

written and done art about his experiences, beautiful but tormenting, amazing but weird, explains his experiences, you won’t understand it

“learned not to disagree with him but we didn’t agree with him either, we just listened to him because we didn’t know what else to do”

“I don’t think I have to forgive the jury because I don’t blame them, they were just doing the best they knew how”

writing the book and speaking helped a lot

goal: want people with mental illness to have parity with treatment, got to get people to the right doctors, they go to the doctor and they get a diagnosis and treatment plan and the help they need

Mark feels safe in prison, our world frightens him, blessed with how well he is treated, Mark loves being an uncle, brothers visit and keep in touch (email a lot)

Ed Thomas hated lawsuits, Becker family would never feel right pursing a lawsuit

carries herself with such dignity, grace, strength, and faith

if one family could be prevented from going through this, it’s worth it, yes this is a tragedy but good can come out of it

as a parent, you don’t have to love what they did, but they’re still your kid so you love them


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