A Letter From Hell
I was 12 years old in 1988 when Mickey and Trudy Thompson were murdered in their driveway. I can remember my old man breaking the news to me one day after school. Mickey was my hero and the news, much like Mickey himself, didn’t seem real to me. Oddly, it was just another chapter in the legend. Even now, it’s hard for me to comprehend that Mickey Thompson was a real person. After all, how could a mere human accomplish the things that Mickey did in a single life cut short by a dramatic and brutal murder?
I was 31 years old in 2007 when Michael Goodwin was convicted for hiring the killings of both Mickey and Trudy. I wrote it about then.
“Justice,” I said. And I think that was the overwhelming feeling throughout the hot rod world. There was finally some sort of ending to the chapter that was Mickey’s murder. But to me, it wasn’t anymore real. Quite literally, it was just like finishing a book full of incredible characters with a sad ending.
I thought the book was over, but this past friday I got a letter in the mail from Michael Goodwin. The 20-page diatribe detailing his innocence doesn’t seem real to me either. If I’m honest to myself, I’ll admit that I was almost excited to get it. “Finally,” I thought. “A real story that I can REALLY write…” I just need to investigate, research, and prepare.
My first step was to re-watch the CBS news special about the Thompson murders. Marcie and I fired up the Apple TV, got in bed, and hit play. Within fifteen minutes of starting the show, my perspective changed 180-degrees. I don’t know why it took a TV special for it to sink in, but suddenly I realized that Mickey wasn’t just a hero in a fairy tale. He was a husband, a father, a brother… A real person that left behind a devastated family and heart broken friends.
And now, I find myself on the receiving end of a letter sent from the man that they all think is responsible for their pain. I don’t know why he sent the letter to me of all people. I don’t know what to do with it or how to report on it. I’m a writer. I’m not a journalist. The distinction between the two has never been more vivid. I create stories by writing about my experiences and my life as if each is a grand dream of sorts. I’m not equipped or experienced enough to deal with something as REAL as this has suddenly become. At least, not yet…
And so here I am. I’m going to write about this eventually, but not until I can understand and grasp the responsibility of it all. Coming to that understanding is really the motive of this post. Writing clears the air for me and writing this post has done just that…
For Mickey’s sake, I think this story is over.