Former racing promoter Michael Goodwin pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the 1988 murders of race-car legend Mickey Thompson and his wife.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Barbara Burke ordered Goodwin to return to the Pasadena courthouse Sept. 8 for a preliminary hearing. He is being held without bail at Los Angeles County Jail.
Thompson, 59, and his wife Trudy were leaving for work on March 16, 1988, when they were fatally shot in the driveway of their home in the gated San Gabriel Valley community of Bradbury. Police say that Goodwin hired the two killers, masked gunmen who fled the scene by bicycle and were never caught.
Goodwin has long been considered a suspect in the execution-style murders. Former business partners, he and Thompson parted ways in 1985 after bitter legal disputes left Goodwin bankrupt, officials said.
Santa Ana attorney Jeffrey Friedman, who represented Goodwin in the Orange County case, said Tuesday that the evidence against Goodwin remained flimsy.
“What you have is a bunch of comments saying Mr. Goodwin didn’t like Mickey Thompson,” he said. “Just because you don’t like somebody doesn’t mean you’re going to kill them. They don’t have any evidence he committed that crime.”
For years, the investigation languished despite hundreds of leads. The case appeared on television’s “Unsolved Mysteries” and “America’s Most Wanted” -- most recently in early 2001. Shortly after the last broadcast, two witnesses who said they saw a man sitting in a car shortly before the killings contacted investigators. In a lineup, they identified Goodwin as the man they had seen 13 years earlier.
Orange County joined the investigation. In December 2001, the Orange County district attorney’s office filed charges. Goodwin was arrested and placed in an Orange County jail, where he was held for 2 1/2 years.
But a state appellate court dismissed the charges in April, ruling that Orange County lacked the jurisdiction to try the case.
Although prosecutors had argued that Goodwin planned the killings from his Laguna Beach home, the crime occurred in Los Angeles County.
Goodwin, 59, was just weeks from his release when the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which earlier had declined to prosecute the case, citing a lack of evidence, said there was enough new evidence to charge him. Goodwin was moved to a Los Angeles County jail Saturday.