This story was updated at 10:50 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2021, to include a comment from Catherine Hoggle’s attorney
Prosecutors from the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office remain hopeful that a woman accused of killing her two children following their disappearance seven years ago will be found competent. They have 15 months before the charges are automatically dismissed.
Catherine Hoggle, now 34, was initially charged with the misdemeanor crimes of child neglect and interfering with a police investigation following the disappearance of her children Jacob, 2, and Sarah, 3, in September 2014. The children have never been found.
Hoggle, who has paranoid schizophrenia, was found incompetent to stand trial by Montgomery County District Court in January 2015. She was ordered committed to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup – a maximum security psychiatric hospital.
In September 2017, the misdemeanor charges were dismissed and Hoggle was instead charged in Montgomery County Circuit Court with two counts of first-degree murder. In December 2017, she was ruled incompetent to stand trial a second time.
Under Maryland law, the State’s Attorney’s Office has five years to demonstrate to a judge that Hoggle has been restored to competency. Prosecutors argue that the five-year mark began the second time Hoggle was ruled incompetent on Dec. 1, 2017, meaning the deadline for restoring her to competency is Dec. 1, 2022. But Hoggle’s attorneys argue that the deadline passed in January 2020 – the five-year anniversary of her first incompetency ruling in 2015.
Hoggle’s attorneys made a motion for the murder charges to be dismissed in early 2020 on the grounds that the five-year deadline had passed, but Montgomery County Administrative Judge Robert Greenberg denied it in February of that year.
Greenberg’s ruling was appealed to the Court of Special Appeals this year. The appellate court issued an opinion on Wednesday, upholding the lower court’s ruling that the deadline to restore Hoggle to competency is Dec. 1, 2022.
Multiple doctors’ reports have found that Hoggle is incompetent throughout her time at Perkins. Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy has said that one report from early 2020 found Hoggle was “incompetent and not restorable,” but that previous doctor’s reports state that her condition was “incompetent but restorable.”
In the appellate court’s opinion on Wednesday, Judge Kevin Arthur noted that the issue of whether Hoggle is “restorable” remains unresolved.
“When this case returns to the circuit court, the court must complete its evaluation of whether Hoggle continues to meet the criteria for commitment. Specifically, the court must address the issue of restorability, left unresolved by the order under review,” he wrote.
McCarthy told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he is pleased with the Court of Special Appeals’ ruling.
“We think they reached the only proper and logical conclusion based on the plain wording of the statute. And we remain hopeful that we can one day bring these matters to trial,” he said.
McCarthy said if Hoggle isn’t restored to competency by Dec. 1, 2022, it’s inevitable the murder charges will be dismissed. If she is still found to be a danger to herself at that time, she’ll be involuntarily committed, he said.
If at any point after 2022 Hoggle’s mental state changes, it’s possible that felony charges could be refiled, McCarthy said.
Hoggle’s attorney David Felsen told Bethesda Beat Thursday morning that he was disappointed with the court’s decision Wednesday and that Hoggle’s legal counsel was contemplating appealing to the Court of Appeals.
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com