A-P Coach Murdered, Former Player Charged

during a vigil for Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas at the field that bears his name at Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg on Wednesday, June 24, 2009. Former student and football player Mark D. Becker, 24, has been charged with first degree murder, accused of shooting Thomas in the weight room at the high school around 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday morning (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

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By Becky Ogann

BUTLER COUNTY - Aplington-Parkersburg coach Ed Thomas, 58, died after being shot multiple times around 7:47 Wednesday morning at the school's weight room. Mark Becker, 24, of Parkersburg, has been charged with first degree murder.

Becker made an initial appearance on a first-degree murder charge Wedensday afternoon in the Butler County Jail in front of Judge Peter Newell. The Associate District Court Judge set Becker's bail at $1 million cash. TV9 has learned that authorities plan to move Becker to the Cerro Gordo County Jail in Mason City, however the reason is unclear.

Thomas was shot in the head at point-blank range, according to business manager Pat Gosch. Thomas was taken initially to Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, Muller said. Butler County Sheriff Jason Johnson has confirmed Becker did not have a gun permit, but investigators wouldn't comment further.

No students were injured. The school was placed on lock-down immediately after the incident.

Thomas was supervising the early-morning weightlifting in Parkersburg when the shooting happened just before 8:30 a.m. Thomas runs a program during the summer for students, not just members of the team.

The district's superintendent and a guidance counselor are meeting with students who were in the weight room at the time of the shooting. Thomas is also the athletic director at the school.

A vigil for Coach Thomas was held at the Aplington-Parkersburg football field Wednesday evening. Click here for that full story.



The Suspect
Becker is a former Aplington-Parkersburg student and football player.

He was arrested in another incident on Saturday, June 20th. Around 9:00 p.m., police were called to Union Rd. in Cedar Falls after someone broke out several windows in the house with a baseball bat and drove through an overhead garage door. When police arrived, Becker fled and led police on a high speed chase. Authorities caught Becker in Butler County, and he was taken to a hospital for an psychiatric evaluation. Early on Sunday morning, officers determined that Becker needed medical attention so he was taken to Covenant Hospital in Waterloo. Iowa Dept. of Public Safety says law enforcement requested to be notified before Becker was released.

Iowa Dept. of Public Safety reports that Becker spent Tuesday night at his parent's house in rural Parkersburg, before shooting Ed Thomas on Wednesday morning.

Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo said in a statement Thursday that its staff was not asked to notify authorities before releasing Mark Becker.

Read the Complaint on the Murder Charge | Read the Complaint on the Eluding Charge | Read the full Cedar Falls police news release | Read the full IDPS news release

Ed Thomas
Thomas has coached football for 37 years and has a career record of 292-84. He has led the Falcons to 19 state playoff appearances and two state titles, in 1993 and 2001. Four of his former players have played in the NFL. Centers Casey Wiegmann of Kansas City and Brad Meester of Jacksonville and defensive ends Jared DeVries of Detroit and Aaron Kampman of Green Bay all starred for Aplington-Parkersburg during a 10-year stretch from 1988 on.

In June of 2008, Aplington-Parkersburg's school and football field were destroyed by an EF5 tornado. Thomas' home was also one of the hundreds flattened in the tornado.

Share your memories, photos and videos of Coach Thomas.

Statement from Governor Culver:
"It's just awful. My thoughts and prayers are for Coach Thomas and his family and the Parkersburg community. I know him well. I've been a real fan of his. As an old coach myself, he epitomizes what it means to be a high school football coach. He's just a legend. He's an incredible role model for the generations of kids in the Parkersburg area. He's someone that I really admire a great, great deal. He was instrumental in bringing Parkersburg back (after the 2008 tornado)."

Statement from Iowa State head football coach Paul Rhoads:
“This is a devastating loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Thomas family and countless people who are better individuals because of their relationship with Ed Thomas.

“Ed Thomas was one of the first people to call me when I came back to Iowa. I can’t tell you how much his call meant to me. He came down to our clinic and called me afterwards to compliment us on how the clinic was run. As an Iowa coaching legend, he didn’t have to makes those calls. Ed did it because he was the best of people.

“As a young man growing up I first learned of coach Thomas through my father’s high school coaching career. Everyone knew that this man was far more than a football coach.

"His leadership set an example for us and his legacy will live on in the thousands of people he has touched in and out of the classroom and on and off the field.”

Statement from Richard Wulkow, Executive Director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association
"Like all tragedies, the taking of Coach Thomas’ life is senseless. At this time our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Aplington-Parkersburg community and the thousands of lives he so positively impacted. He embodied the essence of what a coach should be, and that legacy will endure.

"He will be forever remembered not so much for his many wins on the field, but for the exemplary manner in which he coached kids and led the Aplington-Parkersburg community and school. This was especially true last spring and summer as they rebuilt from a devastating tornado. He was overwhelmed with the ensuing gratitude from the efforts of the Iowa coaching community and others during the rebuilding."

Statement from Rep. Bruce Braley
“I’m shocked and saddened by the senseless death of Coach Ed Thomas. This is a tremendous loss for the town of Parkersburg and the entire state of Iowa. His death will leave a deep void in the community he loved and in the countless people he inspired throughout his life.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Coach Thomas’ family and the people of Parkersburg during this difficult time.”

Statement from Sen. Tom Harkin:
“I was shocked to hear of the senseless death of Ed Thomas. In this time of sorrow, my thoughts are with his family and the entire Parkersburg community.”

Statement from Jared DeVries:
“Aside from my own father and mother, no one had a more profound impact on my life than Coach Thomas. He truly was like a second father to me and to the hundreds of players from our community he coached over the years.

“Aaron (Kampman), Brad (Meester), Casey (Wiegmann) and I were so proud when he was named the NFL’s High School Coach of the Year in 2005. He truly epitomized everything that is good about high school football and all the things it can teach young men.

“A part of him has been with me through my college and NFL careers and that will never change. I will never forget Coach Thomas. Heaven just got a great football coach and an even better man.”

Statement from Iowa Football Coach Kirk Ferentz:
"This is a tragic loss for everyone that knew Coach Thomas and our entire state. He was a highly respected educator, coach, mentor and a strong leader in the community, as well as the coaching community throughout Iowa. Ed loved his family and his work, and was an outstanding, selfless person who has impacted countless lives in a very positive way.

"Our entire staff and team extend our deepest sympathies to the Thomas family and the community of Parkersburg."

Statement from Aaron Kampman:
“Coach Thomas was very special to me and many other young men from the Aplington-Parkersburg communities. His legacy for many will be associated with his tremendous success as a football coach.

"However, I believe his greatest legacy comes not in how many football games he won or lost but in the fact that he was a committed follower of Jesus Christ. He lived his life trying to exemplify this faith and convey those values to those under his influence. His faith in Christ pervaded everything he did and that is why in the midst of the heartache we all feel there is comfort in knowing he is with his Savior.”

Statement from Brad Meester:
"It's hard to figure out why anybody would (do that). He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He really cared about every one of those players like (they) were his own kids. It's just hard to believe that somebody would do something like this."

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