A judge dropped murder charges against a Maryland woman stemming from the 2014 disappearance of her two youngest children after finding Wednesday that she remained mentally unfit to stand trial nearly five years after she was first found incompetent.
Catherine Hoggle’s children, 3-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old Jacob, were last seen in their mother’s care and have never been found. Hoggle was arrested days later and charged initially with misdemeanor offenses. Three years later, Montgomery County prosecutors secured an indictment charging her with two counts of first-degree murder.
A judge initially ruled in December 2017 that she was incompetent to stand trial, concluding that she was a danger to herself or to others. Under state law, authorities have five years to restore Hoggle to competence before the charges must be dismissed.
Citing that limit Wednesday, Circuit Judge James Bonifant dismissed both counts of first-degree murder and ordered Hoggle involuntarily committed because she remains a danger to herself and others, news outlets reported.
Hoggle had a history of schizophrenia and was treated with antipsychotic medications after her arrest. She has been held in a maximum-security psychiatric hospital since her 2014 arrest.
If she’s found to no longer be a threat and is released, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said at a news conference that he’s prepared to charge her again with murder. Double jeopardy does not apply. He stressed that Hoggle will not be free in the community.
Attorney David Felsen has said Hoggle's thinking was too delusional to participate in a trial.
"She is a profoundly ill woman. She has been an ill woman since 2012, 2013," Felsen said. "She has taken medications of last resort for years, and she remains ill. And in the United States and in the state of Maryland, we don’t try people for anything, for any crime, if they can’t defend themselves."
Troy Turner, the children’s father, said he believes that Hoggle is mentally ill, but feigning incompetency, and he will fight for changes to the system he sees as broken.
"This fight's not over for me and my family," Turner said. "We're going to continue to pursue justice."