Testimony Continues in Becker Trial

By Trish Mehaffey

Dr. Sunita Kantamneni, a psychiatrist at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, talks about when Mark Becker was admitted to the hospitalÕs psychiatric unit early on Sunday, June 21, 2009, after he had been arrested after a vandalism then a high-speed chase with police. She discharged Becker the evening before the shooting. m0218Becker - Butler County Courthouse, Allison, Iowa. Thursday, Feb. 18th, 2010. Trial for Mark Becker who is accused of the June 24th, 2009, murder of Coach Ed Thomas in Parkersburg. (Andrea Melendez/The Register)


By Becky Ogann

ALLISON - The defense in the Mark Becker murder trial continued its case Thursday in Butler County District Court. The trial will continue Friday at 9:00 a.m.

Becker is accused of shooting and killing beloved Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas last summer in the temporary high school weight room in front of about 20 students.

Becker is claiming insanity as his defense.

A psychiatrist with Covenant Hospital in Waterloo, testified Thursday that Becker was discharged the day before he shot Ed Thomas because his symptoms of hearing voices that directed him to do bad things lessened and he wanted to leave.

Dr. Sunita Kantamneni said Becker, 24, was admitted because he was hearing voices, seeing Satan and being controlled by others. Becker also said he felt as if he was under a spell and being hypnotized by someone.

Becker was committed to Covenant after vandalizing a home in Cedar Falls and leading police on a high speed chase June 20.

Kantamneni said she diagnosed him with schizophrenia and noted marijuana abuse. She initially wanted Becker to stay in the psychiatric ward for four to five days but after taking two prescribed medications he improved and asked to go home.

Becker overheard a staff member say he was on a 48 hour hold in the unit, she said. The hospital couldn't hold him against his will if he is no longer a threat to himself or others, without getting a civil commitment and Kantamneni said it wasn't warranted. His condition had improved with medications, lorazepam and geodon, which are usually prescribed for anti-anxiety and schizophrenia.

Kantamneni said Becker tested positive for marijuana, but not methamphetamine. If he was taking meth it would have aggravated his condition.

On cross examination, she said the dosages of the prescribed drugs taken in the hospital could have stayed in Becker's system for one to two days but everyone reacts differently to medications.

Adam Taylor, a services coordinator with Cedar Valley Community Support Services, testified he picked up Becker from the hospital June 23, when he was discharged and told him to stay home at his Waterloo apartment and not to see his parents for a few days. Becker seemed to be agitated by them, so Taylor thought it was best to give Becker a few days on the medication before seeing Joan and Dave Becker.

Taylor said he was suppose to come back on June 24 and pick up Becker and take him to get his prescriptions filled but when he went to his apartment, he wasn't home.

Joan Becker testified Wednesday that Becker called her and wanted his parents to pick him up and take him to their home. She knew Mark had been released from the hospital and thought she should call Taylor to make sure it was OK. Joan Becker said she couldn't reach Taylor and went ahead and took her son to their home in rural Parkersburg.

The morning of June 24 is when Becker shot Thomas at the temporary high school weight room.

Taylor said he never got a page or message that night from Joan Becker. He received it the next day.

Replay Thursday's Coverage:

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