By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Because in jury trials it’s just not enough to declare one’s innocence, you have to suggest other credible suspects who might have committed the crime instead of you. Goodwin, therefore, along with John Bradley, has at times offered up six other possible suspects: (1) Saudis to whom Thompson’s tire company supposedly sold defective tires; (2) members of the Vagos motorcycle gang, against which Thompson once testified in Scott Campbell’s murder trial; (3) drug lords for whom Thompson supposedly transported product during all those off-road races in Mexico; (4) supposedly disgruntled business partners of Thompson; (5) Las Vegas mobsters and/or “freelance bankers” from whom Thompson had supposedly borrowed money that he couldn’t repay; and (6) Joey Hunter, a smalltime street hustler with alcohol and drug abuse problems who supposedly confessed to killing the Thompsons to his sister-in-law and failed two lie-detector tests.
Despite appearances, says Lillienfeld, Joey Hunter was never a serious suspect. “His alibi rang true.” His alleged confession was merely a joke. It was true he failed a lie-detector test. But that’s why, says Lillienfeld, lie detectors “are inadmissible in a court of law.”
As for the notion that Mickey Thompson hauled product for drug lords, Detective Lillienfeld didn't buy it. This was a man who didn’t smoke, rarely drank and didn’t even use coffee. In any case, says Lillienfeld, he checked Thompson when he took over the case. “He came out clean. There’s nothing there. Mickey grew up in the ’40s and ’50s. He didn’t know drugs from dog shit.”
As for the notion that Thompson owed money to Las Vegas mobsters, his former colleague, Mike DeStefano, said it never happened. “I was with Mickey all the time, seven days a week, day and night,” he says. “I went with him to Las Vegas. I never saw anybody who was shady. I’m Italian. I would know. In any case, Trudy never would have stood for it.”
Goodwin has always blamed Collene Campbell for his problems, and his attorney, Elena Saris, it seems, has fully adopted his point of view. Over lunch with Saris, I found her smart, engaging and candid but also surprisingly hostile to Campbell. “Show me a family that lives in a well-off gated community with two deaths in the family,” she said, “and I’ll show you someone involved in drugs.”
Saris further alleged, at the 2004 preliminary hearing, that Campbell paid witnesses for information, taped witnesses without their knowledge, hired private detectives, pressured Sheriff’s investigators who she thought weren’t taking her leads seriously enough, interviewed witnesses who subsequently changed their stories, and otherwise pushed investigators to find evidence against Goodwin while largely ignoring everyone else.
Well, what of it? responded lead prosecutor Pat Dixon at the 2004 preliminary hearing. It is the most natural thing in the world for someone in her position to want to act as an “investigator” in her brother’s murder. It wasn’t as if investigators were setting the world on fire. Goodwin wasn’t arrested for 13 years after the murders. Under the circumstances, he said, why wouldn’t she try to find out “who killed her brother”?
In any case, the prosecution suggested, there was nothing either illegal or unethical about her conducting her own investigation. Shortly after the murders, the Campbells had offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people who killed the Thompsons. Over the years they kept increasing it till it finally reached a million dollars. Whenever this reward was mentioned on TV, hundreds of tips would pour in, including one from a man who claimed to have accidentally recorded the two killers quietly admitting the Thompson murders while he was recording music at a bar. In another equally bizarre attempt to pump Campbell for money, convicted private-investigator-to-the-stars Anthony Pellicano reportedly offered her information on the gunmen in exchange for $350,000 and the movie rights. (She turned him down.)
Recently, a jailhouse snitch, apparently trying to help his own case, told authorities that he heard Goodwin confess to having hired “Jack Ruby’s boys” to kill Mickey and Trudy. In the ensuing hubbub, most of Goodwin’s files were taken away from his cell, and, to keep him and the snitch separated, Goodwin was moved to solitary confinement, a development that caused him to break into tears. (He has since been moved elsewhere.) Although one old girlfriend of Goodwin’s claims that at this point he’s a “broken man,” he still seems to have enough fire in his belly to file lawsuits. His old friend John Bradley says that if Goodwin ever gets out of jail, the first thing he’s going to do is sue Collene Campbell for trying to put him in jail all these years, Orange County for jailing him even though it never had any evidence that any crimes were ever committed in that county, and L.A. County for having the chutzpah to employ what he regards as an evidence-fabricating detective like Mark Lillienfeld.
If anything, Campbell’s nerves are even more shot than Goodwin’s. She’s attended all 70 court appearances Goodwin has made over the five years of waiting for his trial to start, rising to leave her house in San Juan Capistrano by 5:30 a.m. to get to court in Pasadena by 8:30. “Friends sometimes ask,” she says, “how can there be a God who would do this to you? We think that God gave us a task to do. When we get to heaven, Mickey and Trudy will be waiting. I want to be proud of how I spent my life. I want to be able to say we did everything we could.”