Father of missing children ‘cautiously optimistic’ as Catherine Hoggle dismissal date nears

With a Dec. 1 deadline three weeks away, the father of Jacob and Sarah Hoggle is “cautiously optimistic” a Montgomery County judge will, after eight years, determine the children’s mother Catherine Hoggle is competent to stand trial.

Under Maryland law, if Hoggle is not found competent to stand trial by Dec. 1, her murder charges must be dropped, and she would likely be held under a civil confinement.

Police have said Hoggle was the last person to see 3-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old Jacob Hoggle before they disappeared in 2014. Hoggle 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 until 2020, doctors held open the possibility that she could be restored to competency.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Richard Jordan has set a two-day hearing for Nov. 17 and Nov. 18, ahead of the Dec. 1 deadline, to review previous doctors’ findings that Hoggle was a danger to herself and others, and that she isn’t competent to assist in her own defense.

“We are cautiously optimistic that Judge Jordan is going to do the right thing,” Troy Turner, the father of the Hoggle children, told WTOP. “If she’s not found competent, that would be the day the charges are dropped, and it goes to a civil confinement.”

Although judges typically rely heavily on doctors’ conclusions, the judge, rather than the doctor, makes the decision whether a defendant is competent enough to stand trial.

Turner told WTOP he believes Hoggle is exacerbating the severity of her mental illness in an attempt to avoid legal consequences.

Turner said it would be “reprehensible,” if the charges against Hoggle are dropped, and she is held civilly.

“It’s the absolute worst outcome,” said Turner. “She took my kids’ lives, then she’s never [been] held accountable, and then she’s allowed to continue to be a danger to my family.”

Turner and Hoggle have another child, in addition to Sarah and Jacob.

While Hoggle would likely be held civilly, Turner has expressed concern she would pose an ongoing danger, if not held in a secure facility under criminal confinement.

Since 2015, Hoggle has been housed, treated, and tested at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, the state psychiatric facility.

“There’s a possibility of her, you know, showing up,” said Turner. “I don’t believe that the people around her would be safe at that point, wherever she’s released to.”

‘The most heartbreaking thing’

Turner and his current wife, Stephanie have been outspoken, calling for a change to a Maryland law to increase the period of time before felony changes must be dropped from five years to 10.

With a “Justice for Sarah and Jacob” presence on Twitter and Facebook, the couple has marked anniversaries of the children’s disappearance with vigils.

“People say things like ‘time heals all wounds,’ but it’s not true,” said Turner. “This gets worse with time, every day they’re not here is another reminder of what they would be doing, what they should be doing, what was taken from us, what was taken from them.”

Police have never discovered any physical evidence to suggest the children are alive or dead since their disappearance.

“As a father, it’s the most heartbreaking thing to live with on a day-to-day basis,” said Turner. “Every day — [with] your heart breaking more, and more, and more — and never healing.”

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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