PASADENA, Calif. – An auto racing promoter was convicted Thursday in the slayings of racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife, who were shot to death in 1988 while leaving their gated home for work.
Michael Goodwin was a former business partner of Thompson, a motorsports figure who pursued land-speed records in Utah and drove everything from dragsters to midget cars.
Goodwin, 61, was accused of sending hit men to kill the couple as revenge for a business deal that went sour and led to a legal judgment of more than $700,000 against Goodwin.
When the verdict was read, Goodwin only shook his head slightly back and forth. He could get up to life in prison.
Two unknown assailants on bicycles entered Thompson's gated home on March 16, 1988, and shot him and his wife as they left for work. The attackers then escaped through woods where a car could not have traveled.
Neighbors described hearing screams and seeing two men pedaling away. One actually tried to shoot at the attackers but was too far away and too late to stop them. The men were never seen again.
As years passed without strong evidence, the case was considered closed. But Thompson's sister, a former mayor of San Juan Capistrano with wide political connections, pressed authorities to look at Goodwin as a suspect.
On Thursday outside the courthouse, Collene Campbell waved a checkered flag and said, "This is for Mickey."
Public Defender Elena Saris said the defense planned to appeal.
"We don't believe justice was served," Saris said. "We believe passion controlled and there was a Hollywood version of events."
Deputy District attorney Pat Dixon said the case will never be fully closed until the actual killers are caught. "This shows the system does work even if it sometimes works slowly," Dixon said.
Goodwin's attorney contended the slayings happened during a robbery, but numerous witnesses gave accounts of Goodwin threatening to kill Thompson. One witness reported hearing Goodwin say: "I'll kill him. ... I can get it done for 50 grand."
Prosecutors showed that Goodwin liquidated his assets around the time of the killings, bought a $400,000 yacht and sailed off to the Caribbean and elsewhere. He was arrested in 2001 when he returned to the United States.