Carl Daniel Kier, right, charged with killing a Charles Street matron, walks handcuffed next to Sgt. Hugh McCusker as he is being transferred to Baltimore County Jail in Towson on.June 14, 1956. (Baltimore Sun / September 19, 2012)

A small, nondescript fieldstone house on an overgrown lot at 6520 N. Charles St., across from the Sheppard-Pratt gatehouse, was demolished this month. The house was the scene of one of the most brutal murders ever to have taken place in Baltimore County.

A 21-year-old West Baltimore drifter and ex-convict on parole from the Maryland State Reformatory for Males entered this house, on a bend of what was then called Charles Street Avenue, about 3:30 p.m. June 12, 1956.

It was the home of Myrtle Agnes Bopst, 47, a mother of four. She had just returned from a shopping trip to Towson and was sitting in the second-floor den, eating a late-afternoon snack of a bowl of ice cream and two coconut cupcakes, when she heard the screen door being forced open on the first level.

She arose and came face to face with Carl Daniel Kier in a darkened hallway between the den and living room.

What followed was a murderous frenzy, as Kier attacked his victim repeatedly in a fight that raged throughout the den and living room. Bopst fought for her life, but her screams went unheard because of street traffic.

It was so violent that curtains were ripped from the wall; the shattered ice cream bowl and its contents, along with three smashed figurines, littered the floor. A table was smeared with her blood.

Bopst was beaten about the face with a 12-inch brass figurine and was stabbed repeatedly with two 10-inch butcher knives and a Japanese saber still in its scabbard, which punctured her throat. She was also raped.

Before fleeing, Kier covered Bopst's face with a cloth, stopped briefly to wash the blood from his hands, and then took car keys and money from her handbag.

Arriving home about 5:20 p.m., John H. Bopst Jr., 55, an engineer who was a vice president of the Baltimore contracting firm Mechanical Engineering Inc., discovered that the heavy wooden door from the patio into the living room was locked.

As he went to get the spare key from under a mat on the patio, he glanced through the window to see his wife, lying on the floor.

Thinking she had fainted, he kicked in the back door. He found his wife of 30 years dead.

Arriving county police called it the "most brutal assault they had ever seen," reported The Sun. "It must have been a sex maniac," said Capt. Gilbert Deyle.

Police found a blue suit coat with a sex novel and a beer bottle cap in the pocket along with two empty beer bottles on the ground. They got a break early in the case. Kier had been knocking on doors for odd jobs. A neighbor gave police a scrap of paper on which Kier's name and address had been jotted down.

The next morning, Kier was arrested in his home and charged with the murder of Bopst. Police also found her beige 1955 Chrysler hardtop coupe, in which he had fled, abandoned on Grantley Road in Northwest Baltimore.

Convicted and found guilty of first-degree murder Sept. 19, 1956, Kier was later retried in Frederick County Circuit Court after a court found that an involuntary confession had erroneously been admitted as evidence during the trial. On Oct. 8, 1957, he was sentenced for a second time to die in the gas chamber.

While Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin reviewed the case, Kier received several reprieves, but newly inaugurated Gov. J. Millard Tawes denied clemency on Jan. 22, 1959.

The next day, a little before 10 p.m., Kier, wearing only clean white shorts, entered the gas chamber at the Maryland State Penitentiary, where four guards strapped him to a perforated metal chair. He moved his lips in constant prayer.

A minute or two after 10 p.m., the signal was given by Warden Vernon L. Pepersack.

One minute and 42 seconds after the lever was pulled, dropping cyanide crystals into sulfuric acid to produce the fatal gas, Kier's chest heaved twice, and then he slumped against the restraining straps.

"He's dead," said Dr. Henry W. D. Holljes, chief medical officer.

"He was ready to die. He is with his maker," said the Rev. Edward Weglein, prison chaplain.

As far as the house, it has had numerous owners over the years. After Bopst's murder, her husband remarried and moved to Florida in 1965. The now-empty lot is for sale.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com