A Montgomery County District Court Judge ruled that Catherine Hoggle was still not yet competent to stand trial on child neglect charges stemming from the disappearance of her two young children in September of 2014.
Judge James Sarsfield ruled that Hoggle was still not competent to participate in her defense of the charges after reading the report of the doctors at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center and interviewing Hoggle in court Friday morning. He ordered another status hearing in the case to determine if Hoggle’s mental condition improves. The hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 23.
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 court in Rockville in handcuffs and escorted by officers from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department. She wore street clothes, a black blazer, eyeglasses, with her hair pulled back out of her face. She stood before the judge and answered his questions.
Judge Sarsfield asked Hoggle if she knew what crime she was being charged with and why she was in court. She answered saying, “For the charge of neglect and hindering processes and that is it.” Judge Sarsfield then asked if she knew who the subject of the charges were. “Myself and my children,” said Hoggle. Judge Sarsfield asked if she knew how many children. “Two,” said Hoggle.
At this point Judge Sarsfield asked how she felt her treatment was going. “It is going well,” said Hoggle. “I go by the medications and participate in the exercises and in ward activities.”
The judge then asked if Hoggle understood the possible outcomes or consequences of proceeding with a trial. “I could get jail time,” responded Hoggle.
Judge Sarsfield then asked Hoggle if she thought that she was competent enough to stand trial. Hoggle responded by saying, “I think I am competent because I understand what is going on and the role of the judge and the prosecutors, and attorneys and everything.”
The judge encouraged Hoggle to “be fully compliant with the treatment so that these charges can move forward.”
After the hearing, Lindsey Hoggle, Catherine’s mother said that she was “a little shocked by the ruling.” She said that she speaks to her daughter every day and Catherine has made “remarkable progress and is she is working to get the right combination of treatments so that she is fully functioning. I think we are very close… She wants to be competent, she has stated that in court.”
While Hoggle’s mother may have thought her daughter was capable of standing trial, her attorney and her doctors do not agree. “Her opinion as to her own condition really carries no weight,” said Hoggle’s defense attorney David Felsen. “As has been made clear in the last year or so, she does suffer from paranoid delusions and schizophrenia. Her mental process or her opinion as to where she stands is not the issue. We rely on the good work of the doctors at Perkins Hospital.”
“We do not disagree with the evaluations of the doctors,” said Felsen. “The family believes that there will be some magical moment when Catherine will be able to relay this information as to the whereabouts of the children. I am not so sure that that will ever happen. It is unconstitutional to proceed with any charges against someone who can’t adequately participate in the process. The doctors are saying she cannot adequately participate in the process.”
Troy Turner, the father of the missing children, said that he was not at all surprised by today’s ruling. “I pretty much told everybody that this was what I expected. I think maybe Lindsey had some expectations because she speaks to Catherine and listens to what Catherine says. I learned a long time ago not to listen to anything that Catherine says.”
Turner wondered again why Catherine Hoggle has more rights to be protected than his two missing children have to be found or have the truth of their disappearance come to light.
While the delay in the trial is frustrating to the family, prosecutors may not mind the delay as police and the State’s Attorney’s Office continues to investigate and build a homicide case against Hoggle.
In April, State’s Attorney John McCarty said, “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 after a hearing in April. “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. The reality is that [District Court] will not ultimately have jurisdiction over this case,” said McCarthy.
Top: Troy Turner addresses reporters on the steps of the Montgomery County District Courthouse after Catherine Hoggle was found to not be competent to stand trial again.
Next: Lindsey Hoggle, mother of Catherine Hoggle, addresses reporters saying that she was “shocked” by today’s ruling.
Next: Catherine Hoggle as seen in a security camera photo released by MCPD while she was missing with her children last September.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.