The lawyer for Catherine Hoggle, the Montgomery County woman charged with two counts of murder in the September 2014 disappearance of her two young children, has asked a Circuit Court judge to determine once and for all whether her mental health can be restored enough to stand trial.
Hoggle was arrested in September 2014. Police say she was the last person to see her children, 3-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old Jacob, alive. She was initially charged with three misdemeanors related to her missing children, then indicted in September 2017 on murder charges.
With a long history of mental health issues before her arrest, Hoggle was first found incompetent to stand trial in January 2015. Every evaluation since then has found her dangerous and unable to assist in her own defense, but held open the possibility she could be restored to competency.
On Friday, a filing by Hoggle’s defense attorney David Felsen requested a hearing to determine whether the judge believes Hoggle’s mental health can ever be restored, and suggested her two most recent evaluations, conducted by two different doctors, have reached the same conclusion: Hoggle is dangerous and is now unrestorable.
Hoggle, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has been receiving treatment at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, Maryland’s state psychiatric hospital.
Competency and other mental health evaluations are sealed, and while judges often rely upon the mental health professionals’ findings and recommendations, the judge is responsible for determining whether a defendant is competent to stand trial.
Even if the Montgomery County judge were to grant the defense motion, hold a hearing and determine criminal charges should be dropped, it is highly unlikely that Hoggle would ever walk free, given that her children are still missing. She would likely be civilly confined at Perkins for an undetermined period of time.
Prosecutors have until December 2022 to bring the case to trial. Maryland law says felony charges must be dropped against a defendant who has been determined incompetent for five years.
Last September, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals ruled that the five-year clock started when Hoggle was charged in Circuit Court with murder in 2017, not, as Felsen had argued, when she was initially found incompetent in District Court in 2015. Even so, the court wrote that, although Hoggle was not yet entitled to a dismissal, “her continued commitment is still in question.”
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said at the time that after December 2022, the charges could be resurrected “if that mental status changes.”
In February 2020, for the first time since her arrest, the doctor treating Hoggle “opined that there was no longer any substantial likelihood that Hoggle will become competent in the foreseeable future.”
Felsen’s Friday filing said the appeals court’s ruling mandated determining whether there is any chance Hoggle can stand trial.
WTOP is seeking comment from McCarthy.