PASADENA, Calif. (Oct. 14, 2004) — Pasadena Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz ordered former motorcross promoter Michael Goodwin to stand trial for the 1988 murders of racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife Trudy.
The judge said there was sufficient evidence against the 59-year-old Mr. Goodwin—Mr. Thompson's former business partner—after hearing evidence from 20 witnesses during a preliminary hearing that began Oct. 4.
“This clearly is a circumstantial case,” the judge said, adding that “ample evidence of motive” was presented including statements attributed by witnesses to the defendant. Witnesses testified Mr. Goodwin said he would kill Mr. Thompson because of their failed business venture, his loss of a lawsuit to Mr. Thompson and a subsequent judgment against him of nearly $750,000.
Judge Schwartz commented that “there's no one else the court can say committed this crime,” after hearing the evidence. She noted the witness testimony about Mr. Goodwin's hatred of Mr. Thompson and called the murders “clearly an execution.”
“The court has no problem in finding enough evidence to connect the defendant to these crimes,” the judge added. “There is more than enough (evidence) to hold the defendant to answer.”
She ordered Mr. Goodwin to stand trial on two counts of murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait and multiple murder. The accused killer remains in custody without bail and is scheduled for arraignment on Oct. 28. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has not decided yet if it will seek the death penalty.
Witnesses said that Mr. Thompson and his wife were killed early in the morning of March 16, 1988, in the driveway of their Bradbury, Calif., home by two gunmen who escaped on bicycles. The gunmen have never been found.
A witness who lived across the street from the Thompsons at the time said she saw both shot to death, with Mrs. Thompson killed first as her wounded husband tried unsuccessfully to get to her. Both were shot more than once, but the witness testified that the final shot to each victim was in the head.
Other witnesses said that Mr. Goodwin talked of having Mr. Thompson “wasted” and said the racing legend would never “get a nickel” from him. Around the time of the murders, Mr. Goodwin, who had declared bankruptcy after losing the court battle, began liquidating his assets, according to witness testimony.
The final witness, Mr. Goodwin's former girlfriend Gail Hunter, testified that in 1992 Mr. Goodwin had showed her a video tape of an “Unsolved Mysteries” show about the Thompson murders and allegedly said, “Look what I've done, and I got away with it.”
The case was filed in Los Angeles County against Mr. Goodwin June 8 after the California District Court of Appeals ruled that Orange County had no jurisdiction to prosecute Mr. Goodwin, who was arrested for the crimes in December 2001.
Mr. Thompson, a private brand marketer, was the first person to break the 400 mph speed barrier at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Mr. Goodwin, first a music then a motorcross promoter known as the “Father of Motocross,” staged motorcycle events and became partners with Mr. Thompson in 1984. Witnesses said that within months the partnership was in trouble, and Mr. Thompson sued Mr. Goodwin.