Race car legend Mickey Thompson, and his wife, Trudy, are gunned down in their driveway.
Mickey Thompson was a legend in the world of auto racing. Among his many innovations were the “slingshot” dragsters. His home-built “Challenger” was the first car to break the 400 miles per hour mark. Mickey was also a pioneer in promoting off-road racing. Mickey’s son, Danny Thompson, recalls his father’s natural drive:
“A good description of my dad was he was flat out all the time, and I mean, he was pedal to the floor; that’s the way he spent his life. He loved to go fast. He loved racing. I think the businesses were a way to help him continue to race.”
Sometimes, Mickey’s obsession with speed drove him too far. A speedboat accident paralyzed him from the waist down. Doctors said that he would never walk again. With the support of his wife, Trudy, he made an incredible recovery and returned to business as usual.
Mickey developed an extremely profitable stadium-racing venture. But the deal, with business partner Richard Goodwin, went sour. It ended up in a nasty lawsuit. According to Collene Campbell, Mickey’s sister, Mickey told her that he and his wife had received death threats:
“He had called me on the phone, and he said, ‘Sis, I'm really concerned.’ And I said, ‘What's the matter, Mick?’ And he said, ‘I'm afraid Goodwin's gonna hurt my baby," meaning his wife Trudy.”
Mickey and Trudy lived in Bradbury, California, an affluent rural community located near Los Angeles. On the morning of March 16, 1988, the peaceful quiet was shattered by the sound of gunfire. The shots came from Mickey Thompson’s home. At the bottom of the driveway, sheriffs found Trudy shot to death. A few yards away, near the garage, Mickey Thompson was also found, dead.
When Trudy was killed, she was wearing over $70,000 worth of jewelry. She and her husband were carrying $4,000 in cash. But nothing had been taken. Robbery was an unlikely motive.
Police were able to learn that one of the neighbors was a witness. Appearing on Unsolved Mysteries with his identity disguised, the witness described what he and his wife heard that morning:
“When we heard the shots, we literally jumped straight out of the bed. And I ran over to the window to see where the shots were coming from. There was probably about 15 seconds of silence. And at that time we heard Mickey screaming, ‘Please don’t hurt my wife, please don’t hurt my wife.’”
Mickey Thompson’s sister, Colleen, had a possible scenario:
“My belief is that when Trudy got in the van and backed it out, the people that murdered them were waiting in the bush and Mickey just didn’t have a chance. He walked right into where they were.”
The witness again:
“The next thing we heard was another series of shots and silence again.”
The police theorized that when Mickey came out through the garage, he was confronted by the gunmen. One of them immediately shot Mickey, while the second approached Trudy. Mickey was forced to watch as the second gunmen shot his wife. Mickey was then executed as well.
The witness said he also saw the gunman:
“After the second series of shots, I saw two black men on 10 speed bikes pedaling as fast as they could to get out of here.”
The two suspects were dressed in jogging suits. They were between 20 and 30 years of age and were approximately six feet tall. Police are certain that they were hired to do the killings.
After investigating the case for 13 years, police arrested Thompson’s former business partner, Michael Goodwin, and charged him with the double murder. Lt. Daniel Rosenberg layed out the case against Goodwin:
“We do believe that Mr. Goodwin orchestrated the murders, we believe he planned the murders, and we believe that his motive was based on a personal vendetta, along with financial gain.”
Goodwin’s lawyer, Jeffrey Benice, says his client was falsely accused:
“There is simply no evidence, nor has there ever been, that implicates Mike Goodwin in the murders. They key innuendo or motive has always been the alleged civil dispute between Mike Goodwin and Mickey Thompson. Mike negotiated a settlement with Mickey Thompson. There are third-party witnesses that confirm that.”
However, an eyewitness came forward and said Goodwin was seen sitting in a station wagon in the Thompson’s' neighborhood, spying on them with binoculars several days before the murders.
Michael Goodwin pleaded not guilty, but the jury didn’t buy his story. At his trial, they heard that Goodwin had bragged that he would, quote, “Have Mickey Thompson wasted.” Further, he had left the country right after the murder.
Michael Goodwin was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. The police are still trying to identify and prosecute the two gunmen. A one million dollar reward is being offered in this case.