Defense: Charges must be dropped against Catherine Hoggle for murders of children

Jacob Hoggle, 2, left, and Sarah Hoggle, 3, right, were last seen in September 2014. Catherine Hoggle, center, has been charged with their murders. (WTOP/File)

The lawyer for Catherine Hoggle has made a two-pronged argument to a Montgomery County judge, saying murder charges should be dropped against Hoggle in the 2014 disappearance of her two young children, Sarah and Jacob Hoggle.

In a motion to dismiss, filed Friday in circuit court, defense attorney David Felsen said Maryland law dictates that felony charges must be dropped against a defendant who has been determined to be incompetent to stand trial for five years.

Hoggle was arrested in September 2014 and charged with misdemeanors in connection with the disappearance of her children, since she was the last person seen with them.

On Jan. 10, 2015, after an earlier evaluation by Dr. Julie Smith at the Montgomery County Detention Center, a District Court judge ruled Hoggle was incompetent to stand trial.

Now, exactly five years later, after every evaluation by doctors at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital — as well as an independent psychiatrist hired by Montgomery County’s State’s Attorney’s Office in 2019 — has reached the conclusion that Hoggle remains incompetent, and is dangerous, Felsen wrote Maryland code dictates Hoggle’s charges must be dropped.

Hoggle was indicted on two murder charges in 2017.

Under Maryland law cited by Felsen, the court is required to drop felony charges “after the lesser of 5 years or the maximum sentence for the most serious offense charged.”

In Maryland, Hoggle faces a maximum of two life sentences in prison, with no chance of parole.

“The language is mandatory and requires dismissal of the pending charges against Ms. Hoggle,” Felsen wrote.

In his second argument, Felsen said prosecutors’ position that doctors believe Hoggle could eventually be well enough to stand trial has gone on for five years.

“Indefinite continued commitments for treatment to restore competency to stand trial are unconstitutional,” Felsen wrote. “Whether or not the defendant is confined, if the court considers that resuming the criminal proceeding would be unjust because so much time has passed since the defendant was found incompetent to stand trial, the court shall dismiss the charge without prejudice.”

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy has previously acknowledged the murder case against Hoggle would be largely circumstantial, since her children have never been found.

In addition, McCarthy has said the five-year clock began ticking when Hoggle was charged with the felony murder charges, and that charges would have to be dropped in 2022.

“It is the defense’s understanding that there is no forensic information relating to the missing children,” Felsen said.

In concluding his argument, Felsen said regardless of whether Judge Robert Greenberg focuses on the five-year limit, or whether putting Hoggle on trial after five years would be unjust, “it is in the interests of justice that the charges in this matter be dismissed.”

Acknowledging prosecutors are allowed to make their case on the latter issue, Felsen requested a hearing if Greenberg doesn’t dismiss the charges on his own, because of the deadline.

Contacted by WTOP, Ramon Korionoff, a spokesperson for prosecutors, said they would refrain from commenting on the motion. Hoggle was previously scheduled to appear in court for a Feb. 18 status hearing.

Even if the judge granted the defense motion, it is unlikely that Hoggle would walk free, given that her children are still missing.

Prosecutors could seek a civil confinement for Hoggle, which would keep her in Perkins for an undetermined period of time.

Also, since Maryland law would have the charges dropped without prejudice, prosecutors could immediately re-charge Hoggle even without any additional evidence.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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