By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Goodwin was apparently so furious at what he considered Thompson’s outrageous insistence on collecting the judgment that once, when Bill Wilson, the manager of what was then Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, asked him how things were going, Goodwin said, “Terrible. Fucking Thompson is killing me. He’s destroying me. He’s taking everything I’ve got. I’m going to take him out.”
“He was agitated,” Wilson would later testify. “His voice was loud. He was irritated. I said, ‘Mike, that doesn’t make any sense. Mickey’s dead. You’re in prison. There’s no winner to that scenario.’
“He said, ‘Oh no. They’ll never catch me. I’m too smart.’ ”
In January, Trudy called her sister-in-law Collene to say she had “good news and bad news.” The good news was that the California Supreme Court had declined to hear Goodwin’s appeal of the Appeals Court ruling that upheld the trial court’s judgment for Thompson. The bad news was “I’m afraid we’re going to get killed.”
Although Thompson was so distraught at the thought of Trudy being harmed that he sometimes broke into tears, he had no intention of letting Goodwin off the hook. Even when Goodwin declared bankruptcy to prevent the seizure of his house furnishings, Thompson not only didn’t quit pushing, he went after him even harder. One by one, he took away the stadium contracts where Goodwin had once held the franchise. Then, in July 1987, Thompson drove a stake through the heart of what remained of Goodwin’s former racing empire. Anaheim Stadium, the crown jewel (and cash cow) of the motor-sports racing circuit, awarded Thompson the exclusive right to run motor-sports shows in the stadium for the following year.
Goodwin couldn’t believe it. He was the one who invented motorcycle stadium racing, was a tenant at Anaheim for 13 years, sold out 10 events in a row and held the attendance record for a stadium sporting event. Anaheim was where he made the money to put on a complete race schedule for the rest of the year. Now, thanks to Thompson’s bullheaded determination, he was locked out of the stadium.
Goodwin filed a lawsuit to prevent Thompson from staging events in Anaheim, but in January 1988, a judge ruled for Thompson. In the same month, the California Supreme Court refused to hear Goodwin’s appeal of the original judgment. And on March 2, just two weeks before the murders, Thompson won yet another lawsuit, this time stopping Goodwin from running ads untruthfully implying that Thompson’s shows had been canceled.
Goodwin wanted badly to get out of this mess. Every time he hired a new lawyer, he’d send Thompson a new proposal offering him various supposedly valuable rights if he would only forget about the judgment.
But Thompson’s lawyer, Phil Bartenetti, didn’t trust Goodwin. “Mike had this condescending manner,” says Bartenetti. “He always thought he was the smartest guy in the room. He was determined to prove it too, [saying,] ‘You want me to explain that to you?’ In negotiations he never gave an inch. He could rationalize any position. [He] had an ability to interpret words in a way totally contrary to their apparent meaning. He would try to convince you that black was white. Furthermore, he thought he could.”
He considered himself a character out of a Tom Wolfe novel, a “Master of the Universe,” albeit one so overflowing with paranoia, says Bartenetti, he didn’t even trust Bartenetti’s people to provide soft drinks when he came to their office for negotiations. And then there was the drug issue. Goodwin would bring a little ice cooler with diet soda inside. Although Bartenetti would later say he never saw Goodwin use any, he did note that after long hours of negotiations, when everyone was dragging badly, Goodwin would excuse himself to use the bathroom, and when he came back, he’d be “refreshed, confident and ready to go.”
In November 1987, Goodwin sent a series of memos to his latest attorney, Bill Lobel, laying out talking points for a settlement.
If Thompson would cancel the judgment, Goodwin wrote, he and his wife would give Thompson “all our Supercross events, not contest Anaheim and waive all our claims against him.” And finally, they’d send out a new “approved-by-Thompson” news release “retracting/apologizing for past releases.”
“We were very close to settling it,” says Bartenetti. Then Goodwin insisted on the right to draw down an additional $300,000 from some Palm Desert property belonging to his wife. Thompson, who had been through this sort of last-minute drill with Goodwin before, answered, “No way.” Forty-eight hours later, Thompson was dead. And in his place was Collene Campbell, a woman as determined in the courts as her brother was on the racetrack.
Collene Campbell lives in an exclusive gated community in San Juan Capistrano. Her house is a sprawling and secluded multilevel hillside affair surrounded by towering trees, redwood decks, a sweeping set of stairs, a flagstone patio with a swimming pool, and a small, circulating stream splashing over the rocks and ferns. Her Irish father might have been a modestly paid police captain from Alhambra, but at 74, Campbell has the classy look of old money. She’s a conservatively dressed, well-coifed matron who gives off an air of competence, dignity and gravitas, along with good manners, a hot temper and surprising warmth. Even at a first meeting, she makes you feel as if she has looked into your soul, likes what she sees and now regards you as her new best friend. When I step out of my car, she greets me with a hug, and when we meet in court a week later, she introduces me like a member of the family. Although I am an hour late getting to her house for our interview, she holds off lunch (egg-salad sandwiches and a gelatin mold) so I can join her and her husband, Gary. When I leave four hours later, she gives me a glass of iced tea for the long drive home.