Shooter of Well-Known Coach Found Guilty

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A guilty verdict has been reached in the death of a nationally celebrated high school football coach who was shot and killed by a former player.

After a week of testimony, an Iowa jury found 24-year-old Mark Becker guilty of first degree murder. Becker killed Ed Thomas, 58, last June -- saying the coach was the devil and that he tormented him.

Thomas was known as a Christian leader who helped his small community of Aplington-Parkersburg move forward after a tornado destroyed a third of the city in May 2008.

Becker's attorneys argued he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and couldn't tell right from wrong. However, prosecutors responded saying mental illness was not equal to insanity.

Becker had just been released from a mental hospital the day before he killed Coach Thomas. During the trial, it became evident that the murder could have been prevented had he remained in the psychiatric ward.

Thomas' death drew national attention because of his winning 292-84 record and two state titles as head coach. He also coached four players who went on to the NFL.

Following his death, tributes were held for Thomas remembering him as a man of strong faith, a leader in his church -- where he worshipped alongside the father of his killer -- and a hard worker in the community.

Aaron Thomas, son of the slain coach, said that while his family was satisfied with the verdict it did little to ease their grief.

"It's not that we feel better or safer. Nothing that happened is going to bring my dad back," Aaron Thomas said. "Our family is not over anything. The Becker family is not over anything."

Becker is scheduled to be sentenced April 14.

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