Catherine Hoggle, the mother of two missing Clarksburg children, was in court Thursday for what prosecutors called a “simple hearing,” but which ended with an excited exchange between the State’s Attorney and Hoggle’s lawyer on the courthouse steps.
Hoggle is currently facing misdemeanor charges of child neglect and obstructing and hindering an investigation after going missing in Germantown with her two young children, Jacob and Sarah, in September of 2014. The children remain missing and Montgomery County Police and the Maryland State’s Attorney’s Office are pursuing homicide charges against Hoggle which move the case from the District Court to the Circuit Court, but those charges have yet to be filed.
Hoggle appeared in Maryland District Court in Rockville wearing glasses and a black sweater and did not speak a word. Judge Eugene Wolfe did not ask her any questions or address her directly.
Judge Wolfe said that while Hoggle, who has been held at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center for mental illness since begin captured, remains incompetent to stand trial her mental state continues to improve.
Judge Wolfe ordered prosecutors to turn over discovery and information which Hoggle’s attorney, David Felsen requested in November. Judge Wolfe ordered that the requested materials be given to Felsen by May 15 and stipulated that if the order was not followed anything in the discovery documents could be ruled inadmissible.
Judge Wolfe set another status hearing for July 10 in Maryland District Court. However, he also ordered that if Catherine Hoggle was to become competent prior to July 10 that a trial on the charges of child neglect would proceed immediately if he receives a report stating that she is competent.
“We do think that we are entitled to that information,” said Felsen. “If the cases don’t go forward in this court, they don’t go forward in this court but at least as it stands now with the judge emphasizing that there will be a trial date, I think we are entitled that information.
Judge Wolfe also ordered that, if Hoggle was to be declared competent that her current time-served would be applied to the lesser charges of obstructing and hindering an investigation. The two counts of child neglect could carry a sentence of up to five years and $5,000.
If she is found competent to stand trial, Catherine Hoggle could be released at least until she is either convicted on the child neglect charges or homicide charges for the deaths of the children are brought against her.
However, State’s Attorney John McCarty says that will not happen. “It is very likely that there will be additional charges in this case and the issue of Hoggle’s potential release, “will ultimately be a moot issue.”
“I think that question will ultimately become moot,” said McCarthy. “I am not going to speak beyond that. I understand what the judge said, as a matter of law, what the judge said is probably correct, but ultimately that issue will be moot when charges are filed in Circuit Court.”
“Everybody that is involved in this case recognizes that this matter will not be tried in the District Court,” McCarthy told reporters outside the courthouse. “Ultimately, when she becomes competent, this matter is going to transfer to the Circuit Court for trial.”
“We anticipate this matter, when Catherine is restored to competency, to be transferred to another court, and the charges – whatever they are at the point in time – and the discovery will be provided in the appropriate court that will have jurisdiction over the matter. The reality is that this court will not ultimately have jurisdiction over this case,” said McCarthy.
“We are in a holding pattern and everyone knows where we are,” he said.
He explained that as long as Hoggle remains incompetent to stand trial, there is no logical reason to move toward seeking an indictment from a Grand Jury because once the State obtains an indictment it can no longer use a Grand Jury for investigative purposes. “As this case remains open and the investigation continues, it makes logical sense to keep open the possibility that you could have the Grand Jury available as a resource for investigating the case wherever the case leads. Everybody knows this. All the lawyers know this. We know this. The police know this. We have been openly discussing this with all the parties involved in this case,” he said.
“We have remained in a holding pattern because that is the right thing to do, to allow us the maximum options for exploring other leads that may develop in this case and having the availability of using the Grand Jury,” said McCarthy.
In the courtroom, Hoggle’s attorney David Felsen repeatedly told the judge that he was still waiting for discovery information from the State’s Attorney’s Office and Judge Wolfe seemed annoyed that his order had not been followed. Felsen’s continued asking for the materials seemed to catch Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Wechsler off-guard. State’s Attorney John McCarthy arrived late in the proceedings and did not speak in court.
“I thought this was a rather simple hearing today about what is the status of her treatment at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital and when could we hope to get an order from the hospital that tells us that she is competent to stand trial. That was the single purpose of this hearing,” said McCarthy to reporters after the hearing.
Prior to addressing reporters, McCarthy was seen in an excited discussion with Hoggle’s attorney David Felsen on the steps of the courthouse. When asked about the exchange, McCarthy said it was just a discussion about Hoggle’s competency and the status of the case.
“I am hopeful that, as the doctors at Perkins have told us that they will continue to restore the competency of Catherine Hoggle. This is a situation that is beyond the control of my office. It is in the hands of medical doctors at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital. Once they tell us that they have restored her competency, we will move forward intelligently with what makes the most sense for us.”
On Sunday, April 19, Montgomery County Police, along with search teams from surrounding counties and volunteer search groups from as far away as Pennsylvania conducted a massive search for the missing children. According to police the search did not yeild any new information about the whereabouts of Jacob and Sarah Hoggle.
Top: Catherine Hoggle. Photo courtesy MCPD.
Next: Hoggle's attorney David Felson, in grey suit, addresses the media after the hearing in Maryland District Court.
Next: State's Attorney John McCarthy addresses the media standing next to the father of the missing children, Troy Turner.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.