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Mother of missing Md. children still not competent to stand trial

Prosecutors have not disclosed evidence of harm in the murder trial of Catherine Hoggle, who's charged with killing her children Jacob and Sarah. This is an age-progressed composite from 2016. (Courtesy Find Sarah and Jacob)

ROCKVILLE, Md.  – The Montgomery County mother who was the last person to see her two children before they disappeared almost three years ago is still not competent to stand trial.

Catherine Hoggle is charged with three misdemeanors, including neglect and hindering the investigation into what happened to her then-2-and-3-year-old son and daughter, Jacob and Sarah.

According to a new report, Hoggle’s doctors at the state mental health hospital say she still can’t assist in her own defense, but could be restored to competency.

Hoggle spoke inaudibly when answering questions from the judge and her attorneys.

Prosecutors have said they’re building a murder case against Hoggle.

She’ll be back in court for another competency hearing at the end of August. Hoggle has a history of mental health issues, including paranoia and schizophrenia.

Hoggle was the last known person to see Jacob and Sarah before they disappeared from their Clarksburg home in September 2014.

For more than two years, Hoggle has been undergoing treatment at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, the state psychiatric hospital.

In an April hearing, Hoggle’s attorney David Felsen told the judge that doctors believe Hoggle is taking steps toward being able to understand what is happening and assist in her own defense.

In earlier hearings, prosecutors with Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office have suggested Hoggle is malingering. State’s Attorney John McCarthy has said prosecutors are building a murder case against the mother.

Under Maryland law, if a person charged with a misdemeanor is not found competent within three years, the charge must be dismissed.

Felsen has dismissed the suggestion his client is feigning mental illness as a legal strategy.

“It’s not up to me — I’m not the one who makes that decision,” Felsen told reporters. “In the United States we don’t have trials against people who are incompetent — they have to be able to defend themselves.”

Although it would be theoretically possible for his client to walk free in September — three years after being charged with the misdemeanors — Felsen acknowledged prosecutors would have options to prevent that from happening, while the fate of Hoggle’s children remains unknown.

While Montgomery County prosecutors have not said they have enough evidence to charge Hoggle with murder, they could charge Hoggle with other felonies related to the children’s disappearance.

This week, the children’s father, Troy Turner, posted a Facebook message wishing his son a happy birthday.

“I feel like this post should be about how big he’s gotten,” wrote Turner. “I’m just praying they’re still alive.”

Turner, who has acknowledged the slim likelihood his children are still alive, continues to hold out hope.

“If someone out there does have my son and my daughter, please tell them daddy loves them so much, and please give them both hugs for me and wish Jacob a happy birthday,” he wrote.


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