Judge not ready to rule in Catherine Hoggle case

Emotions ran high Thursday morning outside a Montgomery County court where a judge was asked to decide once and for all whether the Maryland mother charged with murder in the 2014 disappearance of her two children is in fact, incompetent or able to stand trial.

The newly appointed judge, wanting to question the doctors involved and hear from witnesses, said he’s not prepared to make such a decision yet based on just a "piece of paper." 

The judge was referring to the latest competency assessment for Catherine Hoggle. It was said in court that the assessment is now 3.5 months old.

"We don’t hear about Sarah and Jacob in court. We hear about Catherine Hoggle," said Raelene Turner, holding up a onesie and a small child’s shirt, showing an American flag. "This is about Sarah and Jacob. These are the things that they wore last for their age."

Before the hearing, the children’s aunt repeatedly chanted, "Shame on you," directing her frustrations at Hoggle’s attorney. 

Catherine Hoggle

In the morning, family members and close friends gathered in a circle to pray, as they worried and wondered whether charges could be dropped against Hoggle later in the day.

After the hearing, Sarah and Jacob's father, Troy Turner told reporters that he felt things went a lot better than he thought it was going to. "The judge seemed to act very fairly," he said. 

Turner’s two youngest children, 3-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old Jacob, have been missing since 2014. 

The last person to see them, according to police, was their mother, Catherine Hoggle.

READ MORE: Hoggle Case: Father outraged over potential dismissal of charges against mother

Hoggle was arrested on misdemeanors related to the children’s alleged abduction. She received her first incompetent assessment in 2015. According to Maryland law, a person found incompetent can only be held for three years on a misdemeanor.

In 2017, a grand jury indicted Hoggle on murder, giving officials five years – or until December 2022 – to restore Hoggle so that she may face charges.

David Felsen, Hoggle’s attorney, says 19 assessments have since found Catherine Hoggle incompetent to stand trial, but up until February 2020, there was hope she could still be restored. 

But in court, it was said that the two most recent assessments have both found Hoggle not competent and not restorable.

"Ms. Hoggle is a person of significant intelligence," Felson said. "I don’t know if there’s ever been an issue – she knows who her lawyer is, she knows who the prosecutor is, but the question is whether or not her profound mental health issues, and there’s no question about, affect her ability to assist in her own defense in a rational way."

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy questioned portions of previous reports. He also questioned whether Hoggle knew more than she was letting on.

"I’m not even talking about Ms. Hoggle now. I see the comments made, and they are not understood as how insightful they really are. They’re misunderstood or misinterpreted because the doctors don’t know the criminal procedure," McCarthy said.

He told reporters that he sees it as an "advantage" that the judge may get to now question Hoggle when the hearing continues sometime in October.

Hoggle appeared in court in person on Thursday. She looked forward for most of the hearing, only speaking with her attorney.

If she is not found competent, charges will have to be dropped in December 2022. A judge would also have to decide whether her confinement at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup, Maryland will change from criminal to civil confinement.

Turner told reporters that Hoggle has gotten out of civil confinement before.