Race-driver murder case goes to trial

Monday, November 6th 2006, 4:17 pm
By: News On 6

PASADENA, California (AP) A case of double murder unsolved for nearly 19 years went to trial Monday with a prosecutor offering jurors a dramatic scenario in which legendary racer Mickey Thompson and his wife were gunned down in a professional hit ordered by their former business partner.

Revenge over bitter business lawsuits motivated Michael Frank Goodwin to arrange the killings, said Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, who showed jurors enlarged photographs from Thompson's celebrated career and of the couple lying in pools of blood in their driveway.

The killings were engineered so that Thompson would see his wife, Trudy, die in front of his eyes before he was shot in the head, the prosecutor said.

``As he was shot, over and over the mantra he repeated was the same, 'Please don't hurt my wife,''' Jackson said, quoting neighbors who heard the couple's cries.

``Although they died March 16, 1988, their demise started four years earlier when they went into business with Michael Goodwin,'' Jackson said, outlining a completely circumstantial case against the defendant.

Goodwin, 61, is charged with two counts of murder with special circumstances and faces life in prison if convicted. His attorney, Elena Saris, was to deliver the defense opening statement later in the day.

Thompson, who was 59 when he died, competed in numerous auto sports and was the first person to travel more than 400 mph on land. He was inducted posthumously into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Goodwin's prosecution came about after years of pressure by Thompson's sister, Collene Campbell.

Jackson told the jury that Thompson, who was known for staging Motocross races, felt that at age 55 it was time to cut back on his grueling schedule.

``He met Michael Goodwin, brash, loudmouth, over the top and known for his violent temper. But he was also known for Supercross,'' he said of the intense motorcycle races typically staged on stadium dirt courses featuring dramatic jumps.

``The two men decided to go into business,'' Jackson said. ``... The evidence in this case will show that from day one Michael Goodwin had bad intentions.''

The prosecutor said Goodwin was once overheard by one of his drivers ``saying he was going to screw over Mickey Thompson. But he underestimated Mickey Thompson.''

Before long, Thompson realized he was being cheated out of money by his new partner and he began filing lawsuits, Jackson said.

He said Thompson won his first lawsuit, and Goodwin was ordered to pay him more than $793,000 after a judge found that Goodwin had stolen more than $500,000.

There were continuous lawsuits and countersuits over the next two years and Goodwin was forced to declare bankruptcy, Jackson said.

The prosecutor showed jurors quotes attributed to Goodwin, threatening to kill Thompson rather than pay him.

``You took everything,'' Goodwin was quoted as telling Thompson in an overheard phone conversation. ``I'm gonna get it back. I'll kill you.''

Jackson alleged that the defendant hired two hit men to go to the Thompsons' house in the gated Los Angeles suburb of Bradbury, California, which he had scoped out beforehand, to shoot them and escape on a bicycle route.

Jackson said he will call neighbors who came forward years after the killing to say that they saw a man resembling Goodwin checking out the bicycle path with binoculars days before the killings.

Shortly after the killings, he said, Goodwin liquidated his assets, sold his home, transferred money to an offshore account in the Caribbean and bought a $400,000 yacht on which he and his then wife left the United States for three years.