A judge on Tuesday delayed deciding whether to dismiss felony charges against a woman accused of killing her two children more than five years ago. The woman previously was ruled incompetent to stand trial.
Catherine Hoggle, 33, was arrested and charged with murdering two of her children Jacob and Sarah, who disappeared in September 2014 when they were ages 2 and 3, respectively. The children have never been found.
On Sept. 7, 2014, Hoggle picked up Jacob from her mother’s house in Gaithersburg that day, saying they were going out for pizza, police said at the time. Police said Hoggle later told her mother that Jacob was taken to a friend’s house. However, police said Jacob was never actually taken there.
On Sept. 8, 2014, Hoggle told her then-boyfriend Troy Turner that she was taking Sarah to a day care center, police said. Police said she later told Turner that she had dropped both Sarah and Jacob at the day care center.
Later that day, Hoggle and Turner went to a Chik-fil-A in Germantown, where police said Hoggle disappeared. Hoggle previously refused to tell Turner where the children were when he asked.
Police found Hoggle on Sept. 12 in Germantown after surveillance video surfaced of her near the Germantown Commons shopping center. She was taken into custody.
Hoggle was initially charged with child neglect and hindering a police investigation. In January 2015, Hoggle, who has paranoid schizophrenia, was ruled incompetent to stand trial.
In September 2017, Hoggle was indicted on two murder charges and was ruled incompetent a second time in December of that year, according to state court records.
Hoggle is being held at the Clifton T. Perkins Center, a psychiatric hospital in Jessup.
State law requires that a felony charge be dismissed against someone ruled incompetent to stand trial for five years. But prosecutors have disagreed with Hoggle’s defense team on whether the five-year mark has passed.
State’s Attorney John McCarthy has said Dec. 1, 2022, is the five-year deadline for when the murder charges can be dismissed. Defense attorney David Felsen believes the deadline passed last month, the five-year anniversary of Hoggle’s first incompetency ruling.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Robert Greenberg said in court on Tuesday that the most recent doctor’s report on Hoggle, which the state’s attorney’s office received last week, found that Hoggle was “incompetent and not restorable.” The report, Greenberg said, differed from all previous ones that said that Hoggle was “incompetent but restorable.”
McCarthy on Tuesday insisted in court that with two years until the dismissal deadline in the case, Hoggle could still be restored to competency. He noted that a prior defendant charged with murder was restored to competency after eight years.
“What happened is that there was one doctor who was treating him. That doctor left,” McCarthy said in an interview after the hearing. “Another doctor took over the case and instantly found that he was competent. With psychiatric opinions, it sometimes depends on who is making the evaluation. They see things differently.”
McCarthy added in the interview that there is no clear consensus within the psychiatric community on what constitutes a patient’s restorability.
Greenberg, in response to McCarthy’s speculation in court that Hoggle could potentially be restored to good health, replied that he “has to make a decision from all the evidence” he has.
“I’m a lay person. … I’m not a doctor. … So I can’t speculate,” he said. “I have to make informed decisions, and the only evidence that I have here is that she is not restorable.”
McCarthy said in court that he thought it would be worth having Hoggle go without medication and then doing another evaluation. The most recent report, he said, was done after Hoggle went on medication to which she had a negative reaction.
Felsen said on Tuesday that under the state’s conclusion about the five-year-limit, more time could be added if any additional charges are filed.
“If a new indictment is filed, is it another five years?” he said.
Felsen said there is “no evidence to the contrary” of Hoggle being incompetent. She can still be committed civilly, but not criminally, he noted.
Turner, the father of Jacob and Sarah, said in court that Tuesday’s hearing is the first time his children have “had a voice in the courtroom.”
“There’s no mystery. Catherine carried out a plan and murdered my children,” he said.
He said Hoggle has been “manipulating the system” by appearing incompetent for five years. He said he worries that the murder charges will be dismissed.
“If she’s considered not to be dangerous, she’ll walk out of there,” he said.
McCarthy told reporters following the hearing on Tuesday that Hoggle won’t walk free regardless of the outcome of the case. He added that the state could always reopen the case if the charges are dismissed.
McCarthy said he expected Greenberg to issue his ruling in “a week or two.”
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org