Md. mother still unfit to stand trial for children’s murders, says 2nd opinion

A psychiatrist hand-picked by Montgomery County prosecutors has determined Catherine Hoggle remains not competent to stand trial for the murders of her two young children, who were last seen almost five years ago.

After four years of having doctors at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center opine Hoggle was not able to contribute to her own defense in a trial, the Montgomery County’s State’s Attorney’s Office was granted the opportunity to seek a second opinion in July.

In a motion made public Friday, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy requested a delay until December in Hoggle’s next competency hearing, acknowledging that the psychiatrist chosen by prosecutors determined, “Ms. Hoggle is not currently competent to stand trial and remains dangerous.”

Jacob Hoggle, left, and Sarah Hoggle, right, were last seen in September 2014. Catherine Hoggle, center, is been charged with their murders. (WTOP/File)

Hoggle was examined at Perkins by Dr. Christiane Tellefsen. McCarthy and co-counsel Ryan Wechsler had tried unsuccessfully in March to have Tellefsen provide a second opinion, but Judge Robert Greenberg allowed it in July, citing an upcoming five-year deadline that could affect the prosecution’s ability to put Hoggle on trial.

Hoggle was arrested in September 2014 and charged with three misdemeanors in connection with the disappearance of Sarah, 3, and Jacob, 2. She has repeatedly been found not competent to stand trial since then, both before and after being indicted for their murders in 2017.

In the motion, McCarthy characterized details from Tellefsen’s report, which is sealed.

McCarthy said Hoggle is in the midst of a medical trial of the drug Clozapine — “a highly potent and complex medication with multiple side effects.”

“Evidence that the defendant is improving is clear from a review of the medical records,” wrote McCarthy. “The defendant is closer to competency than she has been in prior years.”

Because Tellefsen’s report is sealed, it is not currently possible for WTOP to independently determine the doctor’s opinion of Hoggle’s restorability.

According to McCarthy, Tellefsen’s report states “the defendant has been partially responsive to the Clozapine and her treating physician is cautiously optimistic that the defendant will improve further.”

Prosecutors asked Greenberg to delay judging Hoggle’s competency “until early December 2019 to allow the defendant to continue her medication trial,” allow Tellefsen to reevaluate Hoggle’s mental state “and provide a final opinion on the issue of competency to stand trial.”

Hoggle’s attorney, David Felsen, told WTOP he will be responding to the prosecution motion, but noted Tellefsen’s conclusions were strikingly similar to those reached by Dr. Danielle Robinson, also of Perkins, whose work prosecutors have called “substandard.”

“I think prosecutors owe Dr. Robinson an apology,” Felsen said.

Ramon Korionoff, a spokesperson for McCarthy, declined to comment.

Court records don’t presently state the date of Hoggle’s next court appearance.

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.

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