WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s been almost two weeks since Troy Turner last saw two of his kids, 3-year-old Sarah, his “tomboy princess,” and 2-year-old Jacob, who he calls “Bubby.”
The children’s mother, Catherine Hoggle, is in jail, and police say they are working to build a homicide case against her. The 27-year-old woman with a history of mental illness disappeared for four days just as her children vanished from their Maryland home. Police and Turner say she has told different stories about the children’s whereabouts.
Police believe the children are dead. Turner doesn’t.
“Do I believe that even one ounce? No. Because there’s nothing to lead me to believe that. Everything else that I know leads me to believe the other way,” he said this week in an interview at the couple’s apartment in Clarksburg, Maryland, about an hour outside Washington.
There, Jacob’s crib sits empty. In Sarah’s bright pink room, clothes hang pink hangers in her closet.
Turner, 41, said Hoggle, “never ever, ever” showed signs she’d intentionally harm the children. One of the stories she has told, that she left them with a woman in the area, had a ring of truth, he said.
The couple met in 2007 when they worked together at The Greene Turtle, a sports bar. Hoggle was a waitress. He was a bouncer. They had their first child together in 2008.
Looking back, he says, some things weren’t right. Hoggle was erratic at times, asking him about things he wasn’t doing and people he didn’t know. She thought he was with a woman who didn’t exist. He assumed it was lingering pregnancy hormones, he said, especially as they had more children: Sarah in 2010 and Jacob in 2012.
Things got worse last year. That was the first time Turner learned Hoggle was “suffering from some psychosis.” And then, just before Christmas, Turner became more concerned about her decision-making. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Hoggle took medication twice a day and was enrolled in a day treatment program. Sometimes she seemed OK with it, said Turner, who works nights selling time shares. But as time went on, she seemed to feel it was more like punishment, he said.
On Sunday, Sept. 7, Hoggle took the children to visit her mother. She went out for pizza with Jacob, but came back alone, saying he was at a sleepover. When Turner woke up the next morning, Sarah and Hoggle were gone and only his 5-year-old son was home.
Turner called 911 but Hoggle arrived as he was on the phone with the dispatcher. She told him she had taken the two younger children to a trial program at a daycare, though she was not supposed to be alone with them, he said.
That afternoon, however, when Turner wanted to pick the children up, Hoggle claimed she couldn’t remember where the daycare was, and she and Turner drove around for hours looking for it. When Turner said they needed to go to the police, Hoggle asked to stop at a Chick-fil-A for a drink and disappeared.
She was missing for four days before she was found and arrested, her hair cut as if to disguise her appearance. She now faces child neglect and obstruction charges.
Her lawyer, David Felsen, said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case, which involves “profound mental health issues,” but that his client “by all reports, was a loving and caring mother.”
After her arrest, Hoggle told Turner she had planned to leave and take the children because she wasn’t happy. Looking through her things, there was a handwritten list about the school system in Carmel, Indiana, were she went to kindergarten, Turner said. That sounds like someone planning an escape, not someone who would hurt her children, Turner said.
For now, Turner spends time posting flyers of his children and talking to anyone who will listen. His older son asked recently whether Jacob and Sarah had been found.
“Daddy didn’t find them yet,” he answered, “but he will.”
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Associated Press reporter Ben Nuckols contributed to this report.
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