Competency testing in Hoggle murder case may be delayed

WASHINGTON — The state psychiatric hospital charged with evaluating whether Catherine Hoggle is competent to stand trial for the murder of her two young children says Montgomery County prosecutors have been slow to provide a description of the allegations against her.

However, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy tells WTOP his office worked promptly to clarify the information the hospital was ordered to provide.

On Oct. 23, Dr. Danielle Robinson, the director of pretrial services at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, where Hoggle has been treated and evaluated since 2015, sent a letter to Circuit Court Judge Joseph Dugan, Jr.

Robinson told Dugan she was in receipt of his order “for examination of defendant Catherine Hoggle’s competency to stand trial and criminal responsibility.”

“We are in need of documentation that provides a description of the allegations against her,” Robinson wrote. “Without it, the evaluation cannot be completed.”

However, McCarthy said Robinson’s request went beyond what the judge had ordered.

“The court order did not authorize an evaluation for criminal responsibility, just for competency to stand trial,” McCarthy told WTOP.

Evaluations regarding criminal responsibility are often used in Maryland’s version of an insanity defense.

McCarthy said his office has recently provided Robinson with additional information on the allegations against Hoggle.

Hoggle was indicted on two counts of murder in September in the deaths of her children, Sarah and Jacob, who were 3 and 2 years old when they disappeared in 2014.

Montgomery County police and prosecutors have said Hoggle was the last person to see them on Sept. 7, 2014.

Police and prosecutors have never said whether they have gathered any evidence suggesting Hoggle killed her children, or whether their case is based solely on her being the last person to see them. Hoggle has told psychiatrists her children are safe.

“We have still seen no evidence that Ms. Hoggle was involved in a murder,” said her lawyer, David Felsen.

Circuit Court Judge Joseph Dugan, in response to the letter, acknowledged the case file doesn’t include a Statement of Charges or Statement of Probable Cause — documents which generally contain evidence and a basic narrative of the prosecution’s case.

Hoggle’s indictment charges she did “feloniously, willfully, and with deliberately premeditated malice kill and murder” her children.

Montgomery County prosecutors wouldn’t say Thursday or Friday whether their case includes physical evidence that Hoggle hurt or killed her children.

“As this is an ongoing case we cannot comment at this time,” said Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for McCarthy, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Wechsler.

In 2014, Hoggle was charged with three misdemeanors: parental abduction, neglect, and hindering or obstructing an investigation.

She was repeatedly deemed incompetent to stand trial by her doctors at Perkins. Prosecutors say Hoggle is faking her mental illness to avoid trial.

Under Maryland statutes, if a defendant is deemed incompetent, charges of misdemeanors or nonviolent crimes must be dismissed after three years.

Days before the three-year deadline, prosecutors indicted Hoggle, sending the case to Circuit Court. The three District Court misdemeanors were dropped.

Felsen has said investigators have never disclosed any proof that the children are dead.

“There is no allegation that any harm has come to either child,” Felsen wrote in an earlier District Court motion. “The allegations center around the police inability to confirm the whereabouts of Jacob and Sarah.”

Hoggle’s trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 12, 2018. If convicted, she could face life in prison.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up