Judge, doctor, prosecutor: No evidence Catherine Hoggle is faking mental illness

Catherine Hoggle is charged with the murders of two of her children, 3-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old Jacob, who were last seen in 2014.

Despite previous arguments in court that Catherine Hoggle was malingering, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy says after years of investigation, there is no evidence she is exaggerating the degree of her mental illness.

Hoggle is charged with the murders of two of her children, 3-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old Jacob, who were last seen in 2014. On Thursday, Judge Robert Greenberg dismissed a motion by Hoggle’s attorney to drop the charges, based on the argument prosecutors had failed to put her on trial within five years of first being found incompetent.

In a case where Hoggle’s mental health symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments have largely been shielded by privacy rules, Thursday’s opinion by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenberg “selectively quoted from them,” since Hoggle’s “competency to stand trial has been put in issue by her counsel,” the judge wrote.

Hoggle’s “paranoid schizophrenia was diagnosed long ago, in her teenage years,” Greenberg wrote. “She was hospitalized in 2013, believing someone was about to perform an exorcism on her and cut off her limbs.”

Montgomery County prosecutors have long argued — in court filings and arguments, as well as in public statements, that Hoggle was malingering, or feigning or exaggerating mental illness.

Troy Turner — the father of Jacob and Sarah, and an older son, with Hoggle — has described her clearly describing a legal strategy, during conversations shortly after her arrest in 2014.

“Whether someone is malingering — basically faking … to try to make it appear that they’re worse than they really are — is an issue that is always examined,” McCarthy said. “Her own mother told us that she thought she was malingering.”

Greenberg has said in court he sees no evidence that Hoggle is malingering. His opinion Thursday cited earlier doctors’ reports: “Hoggle has a well-established history of psychiatric symptoms, including auditory hallucinations, bizarre thinking and behavior, paranoia, and a flattened affect.”

However, “[Her] symptoms have been observed by multiple individuals in a number of treatment settings … Her presentation is not regarded as feigned, and Hoggle is not diagnosed with Malingering,” Greenberg wrote.

Asked repeatedly if he now believes Hoggle is malingering, McCarthy said: “I don’t think that there is currently psychiatric information that would indicate that she is malingering.”

According to sealed doctors’ reports from Dr. Danielle Robinson and other physicians at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, Hoggle’s understanding and ability to assist in her legal defense — one of the requirements for a person to be deemed competent to stand trial — has largely deteriorated over time.

In an August 2019 report regarding her ability to share information about her defense: “When pressed to do so, her responses are illogical or completely unrelated,” Robinson wrote. “Her ability to communicate is compromised by tangential and impoverished thinking and convoluted logic.”

While Greenberg said no evidence before him suggests Hoggle can be restored to competency, he will hold a hearing, to provide prosecutors with a chance to prove she can eventually stand trial.

McCarthy said he will argue that restorability is subjective and changeable over time. Greenberg has not set a date for Hoggle’s next hearing.

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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