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Hearing Underway in Racer's Slaying

Courts: Witness says defendant vowed to kill Mickey Thompson, who was gunned down in 1988, and allegedly boasted that he was 'too smart' to be caught.

April 16, 2002|MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prosecutors outlined their case Monday against a businessman accused of murdering racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife in 1988, bringing forward a witness who claims Michael Goodwin vowed to kill Thompson two months before the slayings.

Thompson, the first American to break the 400-mph land speed mark, and his wife, Trudy, were fatally shot in the San Gabriel Valley community of Bradbury by two masked men on bicycles who have never been identified. Police allege that Goodwin of Dana Point ordered the hit because of a business dispute with Thompson, his partner.

An Orange County Superior Court judge should decide this week whether Goodwin should stand trial for the killings. The case is being prosecuted in Orange County because that's where the plot was allegedly hatched.

The preliminary hearing got underway Monday in Santa Ana with testimony from a Goodwin friend. William Wilson, who is retired from the Pasadena Police Department and general manager of Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, invited Goodwin and his then-wife, Diane, to dinner in January 1988.

According to Wilson, Goodwin said his business wasn't doing well and that he would "have Thompson taken out." Wilson said he responded that it was a bad idea and that Goodwin could end up in prison. Goodwin allegedly responded: "They'll never catch me. I'm too smart for that."

A few minutes later, Goodwin allegedly told Wilson: "You know I would never do that."

Another prosecution witness, Kathryn Weise, said she also heard Goodwin threaten to kill Thompson during a heated conversation between the two men.

Weise, who was working for Goodwin at the time, testified that the defendant told Thompson: "You know, Mickey, I can take you out. I can have you taken out and have you fixed."

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detective testified that Goodwin was identified by two Thompson neighbors who said Goodwin was with a passenger inside an old station wagon parked in front of their home about five days before the slayings. When the neighbors approached the car, they said the driver sped away.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Benice said his client is innocent. He said there is conflicting evidence about the number of suspects seen fleeing the Thompson home and whether they were black or white.

"We think there's very legitimate grounds to get this dismissed," Benice said.

Testimony will continue today. Benice said he will bring in Goodwin's ex-wife, Diane Siedel, to dispute the prosecution's testimony. Siedel has recanted her earlier statement that Goodwin was involved in the killings.

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