Death of Mickey Thompson


Nov 4, 2003
Finally, someone was convicted for the hiring of the gunmen that ambushed the Thompson family back in 1988.

PASADENA, California (AP) -- Michael Goodwin, once a high-living motorsports promoter, was convicted of two counts of murder Thursday in the 1988 ambush killings of Mickey Thompson and the racing legend's wife.

The jury also found that special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and multiple murder were true. The prosecution has said it will not seek the death penalty.

Goodwin was a former business partner of Thompson, a posthumous Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee who pursued land-speed records and drove everything from dragsters and funny cars to midgets.

Goodwin, 61, was accused of planning the murders and hiring hit men to commit them. The prosecution has said it will not seek the death penalty.

The killing of Thompson and his wife, Trudy, seemed to be the ultimate "cold case." But Thompson's sister kept the pressure on to solve it.

In the beginning, it seemed to be the perfect crime.

Two unknown assailants on bicycles penetrated the gated confines of Thompson's home, shot him and his wife as they left for work, then escaped through a wooded area where a car could not have traveled.

Neighbors described hearing screams and seeing two men pedaling away. One neighbor actually tried to shoot at them but was too far away and too late to do any good. The men were never seen again.

As years passed without strong evidence, the case was considered closed. But Thompson's sister, Collene Campbell, a politically connected former mayor of San Juan Capistrano, pressed authorities to reopen the murder case and look at Goodwin as a suspect.

Eyewitness identifications didn't help much. The only witness to see the killings was a 14-year-old girl who testified at the trial. As an adult she claimed her memory of events was good, but defense attorneys questioned that.

A couple who claimed to have seen Goodwin casing the area with binoculars before the killings did not come forward until 13 years after the crime when they saw a TV show about it that they said triggered their memories.

At the six-week trial, Goodwin's attorney presented testimony from a psychologist who said memories fade quickly and suggested that a 13-year-old identification would not be trustworthy.

Prosecutors put on a strong circumstantial case, alleging that Goodwin arranged the March 16, 1988, slayings of Thompson, 59, and his 41-year-old wife as revenge for a soured business deal. They showed that Goodwin and Thompson entered into a partnership to stage motocross racing events -- a business that failed.

The partnership disintegrated into a bitter legal battle and Thompson, who claimed he was cheated, won a legal judgment of more than $700,000 against Goodwin

According to prosecutors, Goodwin liquidated his assets around the time of the killings, bought a $400,000 yacht and sailed off with his then-wife to spend three years in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Goodwin was arrested in 2001 when he returned to the United States and has been held without bail.

His lawyer contended he was innocent and that the killings occurred during a robbery attempt. The defense contended Goodwin was a victim of false assumptions and of TV shows that created a "folklore" and prompted people to come forward with unsubstantiated accounts.

Numerous witnesses gave accounts of Goodwin threatening to kill Thompson, saying Goodwin confided he planned to "waste him," "take care of him" and see him dead before he would pay him a dime. One witness reported hearing Goodwin say: "I'll kill him. ... I can get it done for 50 grand."

His own attorney acknowledged that Goodwin may have been "a jerk," but said he was not a killer.

During every day of the trial, Thompson's sister sat in court with her husband, Gary Campbell, and stared at Goodwin.

"This has been a long endurance race for justice," she said when the trial began. "We don't plan to drop out till we get to the finish line."