Clarksburg, MD law enforcement is searching for 27-year-old Catherin Hoggle, who has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, in connection with the disappearance of her two young children. Her 2-year-old son Jacob was last seen at his grandparents’ home on Sunday afternoon (9/7/14), shortly before his mother drove him to get a pizza. When Ms. Hoggle returned three hours later without her son or a pizza she told her parents that she had left Jacob with a friend for a stay-over. The next morning (9/8/14) she drove away with her three-year-old daughter Sarah. When she returned she told her common law husband Troy Turner that she had dropped both kids off at daycare. When she was not forthcoming about the children’s whereabouts later that day Mr. Turner decided to report the incident to the police. Before he could do so Catherine Hoggle disappeared inside a fast food restaurant. Neither she nor her children have been seen since.
Little Jacob and Sarah are in grave danger and the police need every tool in their arsenal if they are going to recover the children alive, yet an Amber Alert has not been activated. The case does not fit the Amber Alert criteria because a car was not involved in the children’s disappearance.
The Amber Alert has always had great potential. However, that potential has been stymied by a fundamental misunderstanding of its intent and purpose. The Amber Alert was not created to be activated under specific conditions. Instead, it was meant as a partnership between law enforcement, media, and the public. It offered the public a viable means of assisting in the recovery of kidnapped children.
The Amber Alert as currently utilized in the United States is myopic, inflexible and most certainly costs children their lives. Maryland can remedy similar situations in the future by enacting legislation, issuing an executive order, an administrative rule or whatever means is necessary to include children who have been taken by a biological parent with severe mental illness, regardless of whether a car was involved or not.