May 1967 FILE PHOTO
AP file
Auto racing legend Mickey Thompson sits in his racing car, Spit-fire, in this May 1967 file photo in Indianapolis, Ind. Prosecutors contend Michael Goodwin, a former concert promoter who had merged his motorcross racing business with Thompson's, hired killers to shoot the driver and his wife, Trudy.
updated 1/4/2007 5:00:19 PM ET 2007-01-04T22:00:19

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 motor sports figure who pursued land-speed records in Utah and drove everything from dragsters and funny cars to midgets.

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.

Goodwin’s lawyer contended the killings occurred during a robbery.

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.”

His own attorney acknowledged that Goodwin may have been “a jerk,” but insisted he was not a killer.

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.

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