ROCKVILLE – The Hoggle/Turner family are appealing to Governor Martin O’Malley to override Amber Alert limitations in the three-week-old case of missing toddlers, Jacob, 2, and Sarah, 3.
Troy Turner, the children’s father, said the Amber Alert would bring more statewide and national attention to the case.
“Each passing day I miss my kids more and more and it gets harder to answer my son’s questions as to when are we going to bring home the babies,” Turner said. “Other than that, I feel the exact same, my kids are out there and we’re going to go get them.”
Greg Shipley, spokesman for the Maryland State Police, the agency responsible for issuing Amber Alerts for missing children in the state, called the case “a very sad situation” but said it does not qualify for an Amber Alert.
Shipley said in order for a case to qualify for an Amber Alert, there must be a confirmed abduction, the children must be under the age of 18, there must be a chance of serious bodily harm or death to the child and a description of the child’s abductor and the suspect’s vehicle. Since police believed Sarah and Jacob were with their mother, Catherine Hoggle, when they first went missing on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8 and there was no known immediate threat of danger to the children, the case did not qualify for an Amber Alert.
“The Amber Alert was developed to deal with situations where there was specific information known about a suspect and a suspect’s vehicle and that’s not just something that the investigators had here,” Shipley said. “They had the vehicles used by the mother already located and they didn’t have a confirmed abduction, which is what the Amber Alert is really used for. It’s not a magic formula that can be applied in every situation.”
O’Malley’s press secretary released a statement in response to the family’s plea reading “Our deepest sympathies go out to the family of the missing children and all those involved in this tragic situation. We commend law enforcement for their ceaseless efforts to locate Sarah and Jacob, and will continue to provide support and resources necessary to the search until this case is solved.”
Turner reported Sarah and Jacob as missing on Sept. 9 after Hoggle disappeared from a Germantown Chick-fil-A. Both children were last seen with Hoggle before they disappeared. She was arrested a week later in Germantown. Police described Hoggle, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, as being deceptive and evasive during questioning. Police said Hoggle told them the kids were with a friend named Erin but could not provide an address or phone number for Erin. She told police she had not spoken to the children since she last saw them. Police charged Hoggle with two counts of negligence, one count of obstruction of justice and two child abduction charges. On Sept. 16, police announced they were pursuing homicide charges against Hoggle.
Turner said he believes his children are still alive and in the care of someone close to Hoggle. Turner said he has searched the county up to the Montgomery County/Frederick County line and has distributed over 20,000 fliers.
“The police have searched 60 acres of forest and park land looking for corpses and they haven’t found one yet,” Turner said. “I know Catherine is not going that far into the woods with anything but I can tell you if they were out there, they would have found them by now. I think it’s time we make the same assumption and go find my kids. The first step is to issue an amber alert.”
Hoggle is currently being held at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, a maximum-security psychiatric hospital in Jessup. Turner said he hasn’t seen or spoken to Hoggle since he was allowed to see her during her 15-hour interrogation. A bond hearing scheduled for Sept. 30 was postponed pending a psychiatric evaluation. Hoggle’s mother, Lindsay, who hasn’t been able to visit her daughter in jail, said she thought Hoggle was doing well with treatment and medication before the children disappeared.
Turner said Google searches on the family’s computer showed Hoggle was researching an organization with beliefs that mentally ill people weren’t sick and giving them medication was a sin.
“I thought she was doing well,” Linday said. “She absolutely adores and loves these children but there are some thought patterns here that don’t make sense.”
The Turner/Hoggle family is currently offering a $25,000 reward for the children’s return. Turner said the family and volunteers will continue to meet every weekend at Seneca Valley High School or Germantown Chick-fil-A to continue their children.
“Just bring my kids home,” Turner said. “You can drop them off at a fire station, a hospital, any safe zone. Just drop them off. Drop them at the foot of my building, they know their way upstairs and I’ll leave my door open and they can come in. Just get them home to me. I have no desire to know who you are or press charges. Just bring them home if you have them.”