Bad Boy No.5: Mike Goodwin

A business deal between the inventor of Supercross and Mickey Thompson turned sour ending in the assassination of Thompson

Mike Goodwin was a rock promoter in the 1960s and worked with The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors before hitting on the idea of staging motocross events in the same massive stadiums used by bands.

The result was a spectacular success as more than 70,000 people attended what Goodwin called the ‘Superbowl of Motocross’ at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1972. Goodwin brought in hundreds of tons of dirt to build spectacular jumps and motocross fans thrilled at the idea of watching their sport from the comfort of seats with hot dogs, cold beers, dancing girls, and celebrity spectators including Steve McQueen.

He single-handedly created a new form of motorcycle sport we now know as Supercross.

Mickey Thompson was a legend in his own right as an off-road car racer, drag racer and record-breaker. He was the first man to break the 400mph barrier in a wheel-driven car (as opposed to rocket or jet-powered) and set a total of 485 separate speed and endurance records - more than any other driver in history.

Thompson was also a successful race promoter and founder of Mickey Thompson Tyres. He became partners with Goodwin in 1986 but the relationship was troubled. Thompson claimed Goodwin was stealing money from him and when the matter eventually went to court, Goodwin was ordered to pay $514,000 in compensation. Goodwin pleaded bankruptcy and refused to pay.

Then things got a whole lot worse.

Goodwin openly threatened his former partner with such vehemence that Thomson lived in fear of his life – and he was even more worried about the safety of his 41-year-old wife, Trudy. He took to wearing a bullet-proof vest and kept a loaded shotgun to hand. He hired a security guard and asked local police for extra patrols.

It wasn’t enough.

At 6am on March 16, 1988, two unidentified black men on bicycles rode into Thompson’s exclusive neighbourhood in Bradbury in the San Gabriel Valley, California. Thompson’s wife was waiting in a van in the driveway for her husband to leave the house when a 9mm round shattered the windscreen. Trudy jumped out and tried to crawl to safety as her husband appeared and screamed ‘Don’t shoot my wife.’ He was immediately shot in the legs and stomach but, according to prosecutors in the subsequent trial, was kept alive and forced to watch as the gunman delivered a fatal shot to Trudy’s head. Only then was Thompson himself shot in the head and killed. He was 59 years old.

The gunmen fled the scene on their bicycles. In their twenties and wearing hooded tops, they were never identified or apprehended, but suspicion fell on Mike Goodwin as the man who ordered what the police called the ‘execution style’ killings.

Despite an intense police investigation, the Thompson murders went unsolved for almost 20 years. During that time, the case became one of the most famous in America and was featured on ‘America’s Most Wanted’, ‘Unsolved Mysteries’, and ‘48 Hours’ television programmes.

In 2001, Goodwin returned from the Caribbean where he had fled after liquidating his assets in the aftermath of the killings. He was arrested in Orange County on suspicion of orchestrating the murders but the case was overturned on jurisdictional grounds. He was remanded in custody but it wasn’t until October 2006 that he was formally charged and ordered to stand trial for the murders which were thought to have been revenge killings on Goodwin’s part for the earlier court ruling that had supposedly left him bankrupt. The money was never paid to the Thompson’s estate and now amounts to more than $2 million with interest.

Goodwin was found guilty and given two consecutive life sentences without any chance of parole. The 61-year-old continued to protest his innocence, telling the judge, “I can’t apologise because I’m not guilty of this crime.”

A shameless self-promoter, Goodwin once stated, “My goal is to be the best, and to live two lifetimes at once.” His dream almost came true, with the notable distinction that he’s now serving two lifetimes, rather than living them.

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