Case In Brief: Mickey Thompson
The pre-dawn quiet of March 16, 1988 was shattered by the sound of gunfire. Mickey Thompson and his wife Trudy were brutally gunned down in the driveway of their home. Sheriff's investigators went to the scene and immediately knew that the murders were a professional "hit."
Trudy Thompson had been wearing $70,000 worth of jewelry, none of which was taken.
Witnesses report that they saw two African-American men -believed to be the shooters - ride off on bicycles away from the crime scene in the Thompson's exclusive Southern California neighborhood.
Mickey Thompson had first blazed into the record books by being the first American to break the 400 mile-per-hour land speed mark. His pioneering designs changed the face of racing.
During the 1980's, Mickey developed an extremely profitable stadium-racing venture. His wife, Trudy was constantly at his side. They worked hand-in-hand to promote their many business ventures.
But police say some of his business ventures may have gone sour. According to Mickey's sister, Mickey told her that an individual might hurt him. Several days after that conversation, the Thompsons were brutally gunned down in cold blood as they left their home in the gated community of Bradbury, California. For thirteen years,
Note: Original Edited From... http://servv89pn0aj.sn.sourcedns.com/~gbpprorg/judicial-inc/Mi.ck.ey_thompson_trial_supplement.htm
Sheriff's investigators attempted to piece together a case.
POSTED: 11:55 a.m. EST, November 6, 2006
By Tori Richards (Special to Court TV)
PASADENA, California (Court TV) -- It has been 18 years since American racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife Trudy were murdered in the driveway of their Bradbury, California, home by two hooded gunmen who escaped on bicycles.
The case has produced hundreds of thousands of clues and enough paperwork to fill a 40-foot moving van.
Many suspects were investigated before one was accused: Michael Goodwin, a flamboyant motocross promoter who lived for racing, women and money.
On Monday, prosecutors will deliver their opening statements in Goodwin's murder trial. They will allege that he ordered the killings as retribution for a failed business deal with Thompson.
The trial is expected to last until Christmas and includes witnesses who are scattered around the globe. In the time since the murders, several witnesses have died or were stricken with debilitating illnesses, and some have different recollections of what happened nearly two decades ago.
Goodwin, 61, vehemently denies any part in the murders and at times has waged a public relations campaign against prosecutors and detectives for what he has termed a witch hunt to solve the high-profile case.
He faces life in prison if convicted.
Thompson was a hero in his day. He set 395 different speed records; one of them was 406 miles per hour in the Utah desert, a world record in 1960.
Always looking for the next great thing, Thompson met Goodwin at a motocross event, and the pair decided to go into business together to bring outdoor racing indoors.
The relationship was tumultuous from the start, and within months, lawyers got involved. The two sued each other over control and financing of their company, and when all the appeals were finally complete in early 1988, Goodwin was ordered to pay $514,388. Months later, the Thompsons were dead.
Thompson Pleads For Wife:
'Please don't kill my wife'
Several people saw two black gunmen furiously pedal away from the Thompsons' estate, and one family actually witnessed the killing. The Triarsi family, who lived across the street and up on a hill, were awakened by gunshots and saw a wounded Mickey at the top of the driveway pleading, "Please don't kill my wife!"
Trudy was 50 feet away near the street and was shot in the head by one gunman as her husband watched. Mickey was next, with a similar shot.
The Gunmen Were Never Identified Or Caught.
Almost immediately, reports of the Goodwin-Thompson dispute surfaced. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had no shortage of witnesses claiming they had heard Goodwin threaten to kill Thompson over their failed business merger and the lawsuit that followed.
"F---ing Thompson is killing me," businessman William Wilson recalled Goodwin saying in preliminary hearing testimony. "He's destroying me. He's taking everything I've got. I'm going to take him out."
The case went through three lead detectives and several supporting detectives before settling on a third: Mark Lillienfeld, who has fought for 11 years to bring the case to trial.
During that period, Lillienfeld reinvestigated everything that was done by his predecessors and came up with additional evidence after obtaining television coverage with "America's Most Wanted" and "Unsolved Mysteries."
Police Pursued Many Leads:
Lillienfeld and partner Mike Robinson looked at Joey Hunter, a young blond man who was found with a bicycle a few miles from the crime and was said to look like a composite of one of the shooters.
Detectives looked at an organized crime connection in Las Vegas and Thompson's possible relationship with a strip-club promoter in Los Angeles, who was also gunned down in an execution-style slaying in front of his house.
The detectives say they ran down thousands of leads, from psychics to informants to old Goodwin-Thompson acquaintances who surfaced after the media coverage.
Lillienfeld filed charges against Goodwin in neighboring Orange County, where Goodwin lived, because prosecutors say he plotted the killings there. The case stalled before trial in 2004 as a state appellate court ruled that no evidence existed to show that the murder was planned in Orange County, and the proper jurisdiction was Los Angeles County.
Los Angeles County filed charges of its own as a new round of attorneys was brought on the case. During the past year, attorneys fought constantly over discovery and the admissibility of evidence and witness statements.
Michael is looking forward to the truth finally coming out, said his attorney, Los Angeles County Deputy Public Defender Elena Saris. "He's been in jail five years without bail for a crime he didn't commit. He is confident that when the jury hears the truth, he will be acquitted."
Linkletter said he delivered the contracts to the Los Angeles Coliseum that bound Thompson and Goodwin in a merger of their motocross racing companies.
A short time later, Linkletter said he picked up Goodwin and a business associate and drove them to a downtown law office. During the drive, Linkletter said, the two spoke for 45 minutes "about screwing him, ripping him off."
Goodwin, 61, is charged with two counts of murder with special circumstances and faces life in prison if convicted. The racer, who was 59 when he died, was the first person to travel more than 400 mph on land. He was inducted posthumously into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Prosecutors contend the evidence leads directly to Goodwin, a former concert promoter who merged his motocross racing business with Thompson's before the pair had a falling out. They said Goodwin became so angry after losing $793,000 to Thompson that he set out to kill him.
Thompson and his 41-year-old wife were leaving for work in March 1988 when they were ambushed outside their home in the gated Los Angeles suburb of Bradbury. Two shooters fled on bicycles and were never caught.
The defense argues that Goodwin was a victim of false assumptions, and that TV shows created a "folklore" that prompted people to come forward with unsubstantiated accounts.
Deputy District Attorney Pat Dixon asked Linkletter to elaborate on what was said and he replied that Goodwin gave him a warning when the ride ended: "He said, 'Stew, if you ever say anything to anyone about this conversation, I'll (expletive) kill you.'"
On cross examination by Goodwin's public defender Elena Saris, Linkletter said he called a hot line for the television show "America's Most Wanted" after the program reported a $1 million reward for information on the case. He acknowledged he also called Thompson's family and relayed the information.
Later in the day, a private investigator testified Goodwin had contacted him in late 1987 and said he wanted to "get even" with Thompson.
Goodwin was "upset about something, he looked flushed and excited," private investigator Penn Weldon said. Goodwin told him he had been done wrong by Thompson and "he wanted to get even with him," Weldon said.
Goodwin also asked him to bug the car and home of Thompson's lawyer.
"I said I couldn't do it because it was illegal," Weldon said.
PASADENA, Calif. -- A racing tycoon accused in the slayings of legendary racer Mickey Thompson and his wife two decades ago said he wanted to rip Thompson off in a business deal, a messenger testified Tuesday.
Stewart Linkletter, who said he worked for Michael Goodwin as a messenger and driver in 1984, told jurors at Goodwin's murder trial that he heard Goodwin say, "'We're going to screw Mickey out of everything.'"
By LINDA DEUTSCH, The Associated Press
Nov 6, 2006 9:38 PM (1 day ago)
Jew Threatens Thompson:
PASADENA, Calif. - Nearly 19 years after Mickey Thompson and his wife were slain, three witnesses testified Monday that a former business partner made threatening remarks about the racing legend just weeks or months before the couple was gunned down by killers who escaped on bicycles.
The testimony against Michael Frank Goodwin came after a prosecutor told jurors it was a professional hit engineered to make Thompson see his wife killed before a bullet was fired into his brain.
"As he was shot, over and over the mantra he repeated was the same, 'Please don't hurt my wife,'" Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson said, quoting neighbors who heard the couple's cries.
Thompson had won a $793,000 judgment against Goodwin in a lawsuit and after legal wrangling Goodwin had been forced to declare bankruptcy, Jackson said in outlining a circumstantial case.
Goodwin's public defender, Elena Saris, countered in her opening that there is no forensic evidence, no murder weapon, no proof of a payout to anyone or a money drop to pay assassins.
"This is the story of a botched investigation and a Hollywood series of events based on false assumptions," she said.
Thompson, who was 59 when he died in 1988, 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.
The 61-year-old Goodwin, whose fame was in staging Supercross motorcycle races, is charged with two counts of murder with special circumstances and faces life in prison if convicted. His prosecution came about after years of pressure by Thompson's sister, Collene Campbell.
Saris told jurors that most prosecution witnesses emerged after they saw TV shows about the case and learned there were large rewards. She acknowledged that the prosecution's first witness didn't fit that profile.
Bill Wilson, a former police commander and later manager of the Rose Bowl and Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, testified that he and his wife hosted a dinner party for Goodwin and his wife a little more than a month before the killings. Wilson said it was he who had introduced the two men and suggested they do business together.
Wilson said he knew there were problems between the two but was stunned when Goodwin told him: "Thompson is killing me. He's destroying me. He's taking everything I've got. I'm gonna take him out."
Wilson said he replied, "Nobody wins that one. Mickey's dead and you're in prison."
Wilson said he was upset.
"I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He was going to kill a friend of mine," he testified.
Wilson said before the conversation ended Goodwin looked at him and said, "You know I'm just kidding. I couldn't do anything like that."
Asked if he believed Goodwin's comments, Wilson said, "Nothing led me to believe the defendant was making a joke."
Wilson's wife, Nina, gave a similar account of the conversation. She said that when Wilson told Goodwin he would go to jail, Goodwin responded, "Oh no, I'm too smart for that. Nobody will pin it on me."
Neither of the Wilsons said they reported anything to police after the dinner.
The third witness, Karen Dragutin, testified that some months before the murder she encountered Goodwin at dinner with a friend and she joined them.
"They started talking about the lawsuits and problems with lawyers," Dragutin said.
She said Goodwin's attitude became "cocky and arrogant and he was pretty mad. I remember them talking about Mickey Thompson."
She testified that Goodwin "made a statement somewhere along the line that the only way to get out of the mess was to take care of Mickey Thompson."
On further questioning she added that Goodwin said "the only way he was going to get out of it was if Mickey Thompson died."
Dragutin, who said he also talked of getting a boat and going to Bermuda, testified she did not contact police until she saw the case on the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" and "thought that what I had heard was relevant."
She said she called a hot line, a detective came to interview her and she picked Goodwin out of a photo lineup. She said she also called after a "48 Hours" show and the lead officer on the case called and took information.
On cross-examination, Dragutin said she couldn't remember if there were large rewards offered in the case.
During the prosecution's opening, Jackson showed pictures of the couple lying in pools of blood in their driveway.
"Although they died March 16, 1988, their demise started four years earlier when they went into business with Michael Goodwin," Jackson said.
The prosecutor said Thompson, who was known for staging Motocross races, went into business with Goodwin because he felt it was time to cut back on his grueling schedule.
But Thompson realized he was being cheated by his new partner and began filing "crushing" lawsuits that led Goodwin to develop a "vendetta," Jackson said.
Jackson alleged Goodwin hired two hit men to go to the Thompsons' house in the gated Los Angeles suburb of Bradbury, which he had scoped out beforehand, to shoot them and escape on a bicycle route.
"It was a professional execution," Jackson said.
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 assets, sold his home, transferred money to an account in the Caribbean and bought a $400,000 yacht on which he and his then-wife left the United States for three years.
Defense attorney Saris acknowledged harsh words were spoken between Goodwin and Thompson, but said that "folklore was generated by the media" which led witnesses to come forward.
She acknowledged her client had refused to pay the judgment Thompson won.
"You might not think of this as honorable behavior, she said, "but it is not evidence of murder."
She claimed the two men had reached a settlement days before the murders.
She also disputed the claim that Goodwin fled, saying he often flew back to California to take care of business, that police knew his whereabouts and his lawyers had offered to make him available.