It was Christmas Eve, 1985. Seattle attorney Charles Goldmark was at home with his wife, Annie, and their two children, 10-year-old Colin and 12-year-old Derek; all were eagerly anticipating the festive holiday dinner to come. But a murderous, hate-filled stranger would put an end to all of their plans.

David Lewis Rice knocked on the door of the Goldmark home, pretending to deliver a package. He pushed his way in, brandishing a $3 toy gun. He then knocked out the family with chloroform before, as the Spokane Chronicle reported, he “handcuffed the parents and used a knife and steam iron to attack them [all].” His confession was horribly graphic, wrote the AP:

At one point in the tape, Rice described how his victims were still alive after he chloroformed them, then bashed their skulls open with the tip of the steam iron.

“So I decided to complete the job with a knife,” he said. “I inserted the point of the knife in the skull where it was broken from the iron ... and stirred it around.”

Annie and Colin died that day of their injuries; Charles survived in a hospital until January 9, 1986, while a comatose Derek held on until the end of January.

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Twenty-seven-year-old David Rice was arrested on December 26 after using a bank card he’d stolen from the home—his only haul, aside from $14 in cash. Robbery had been one reason he’d entered the home. But he apparently had another motive, which was something much more disturbing, and is the reason this case has become so infamous.

According to the New York Times, Rice “saw himself as an anti-Communist soldier and them as Communists,” denying initial reports that he’d targeted the Goldmarks for being Jewish. He also claimed he didn’t realize children would be at the home, but once he’d invaded, he decided, “I’m in it now. I have to go through with it.”

As it happened, the Goldmarks were neither Jewish nor Communists.

Charles Goldmark had been legal counsel to the Washington state Democratic Party, and had worked on Gary Hart’s Presidential campaign. But the Communist thing had some historical context, though Rice interpreted it one hundred percent incorrectly. He’d heard of Charles Goldmark’s family at a meeting of the “Duck Club,” which the New York Times described as a “conservative political organization;” soon after the Goldmark murders, the founder of the Duck Club denied to the Times that the group ever preached any kind of violence or anti-Semitism. (He did say, however, they were a staunchly anti-Communist group.)

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So why was the Duck Club talking about the Goldmarks, and why did Rice fixate on them? The New York Times explained the history:

In 1963 John Goldmark, father of Charles Goldmark, sued for libel after his career as a member of the Washington Legislature was cut short by charges that he was a Communist. He won a $40,000 judgment. Sally Goldmark, his wife and Charles’s mother, was a Communist Party member for several years in the 1930’s, it was disclosed at that time.

By 1985, the time of the Charles Goldmark family murders, the elder Goldmarks had already passed away.

Rice’s trial was held in the summer of 1986; though his legal sanity was called into question, he was convicted of four counts of aggravated first-degree murder and sentenced to death. In 1998, after a new penalty trial was granted, his sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole, after he pled guilty to the charges instead.

David Rice sits with his attorneys Anthony Savage and Bill Lanning as his trial got underway in Seattle, May 13, 1986. (AP Photo)