Former business partner of Mickey Thompson arrested

By Christina Almeida, The Associated Press
Friday December 14, 2001

Goodwin taken into custody for slaying of racing legend, wife 


LOS ANGELES — The former business partner of racing legend Mickey Thompson was arrested Thursday for investigation of murder in the 1988 slaying of Thompson and his wife. 

Michael Frank Goodwin was taken into custody at his Dana Point home in Orange County shortly after 3:30 p.m. and booked at the Orange County Jail, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Hellmold. 

He was booked on two counts of murder, one count of conspiracy and three special circumstances, which were lying in wait, murder for financial gain and multiple murder, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. Prosecutors said they will decide later whether to seek the death penalty. 

Goodwin, who was being held without bail, was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Orange County. 

Goodwin, 56, has long been a suspect in the shooting deaths of Thompson, 59, and his wife, Trudy, 41 outside their suburban Los Angeles mansion in 1988. Investigators suspect a broken partnership that led to Goodwin filing for bankruptcy prompted the killings. 

Goodwin has repeatedly maintained his innocence, saying he has been the target of overzealous prosecutors and Thompson’s sister, who is a prominent victims’ rights advocate. 

Thompson became known as the “Speed King” during the 1950s when he set the first of his nearly 500 auto speed and endurance records. In 1960, he became the first person to travel more than 400 mph on land. 

He was also a drag racing innovator, building and driving the sport’s first “slingshot” dragster. 

Goodwin, once known as the “Father of Supercross” for his 1980s dirt bike competitions, had a business partnership with Thompson that ended in a bitter breakup. 

The split resulted in Thompson winning a $514,000 judgment that helped force Goodwin into bankruptcy. 

Thompson and his wife were shot to death in the driveway of their palatial home in a gated community in Bradbury, about 15 miles east of Los Angeles, on March 16, 1988. 

Witnesses said they saw two men fleeing the area on bicycles. Authorities have said Thompson’s wife was shot in front of him as he pleaded for the killers not to harm her. 

Authorities don’t believe Goodwin actually killed the Thompsons but aided two other men who did. According to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Goodwin is suspected of providing a stun gun to the killers, who have never been captured. 

As investigators eliminated possible motives, they began focusing on the broken business relationship between Goodwin and Thompson. 

Goodwin refused to submit to police questioning, however, and the case languished for years. The investigation reintensified in recent months after the district attorney convened a grand jury. 

Goodwin has conceded that bad feelings existed between him and Thompson but he insists they settled things in the weeks before Thompson’s murder. 

“They will say and do anything to get me,” he told The Associated Press earlier this year. “I believe they will probably indict me. But they are never going to prove it. I didn’t do it.” 

His lawyer said Thursday’s arrest was no surprise. 

“We’ve been expecting it and planned for it,” attorney Jeff Benice said. 

“I don’t think anybody, including Mr. Goodwin could put into words the kind of depressing, demeaning conduct and state of mind he’s been subjected to by authorities,” Benice added. “His reputation has been destroyed.” 

Goodwin has said scrutiny of him as a suspect was pushed by Thompson’s sister, Collene Campbell, who has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the killers’ conviction. 

Campbell issued a statement Thursday night saying her family was “relieved that finally we are headed toward justice.” 

“Just before he was murdered, my brother, Mickey, told me and other credible friends, that he feared for Trudy’s life, as well as his own, at the hands of Mike Goodwin,” she said. 

“For 5,011 days, that’s 13 years and nine months, I have prayed that justice would be served,” Campbell said. “An arrest and conviction won’t bring Mickey and Trudy back, but it will make a lot of us feel better.”