The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) ostensibly does good work. Their mission, according to their website, is to serve as a resource center for law enforcement, families and the public to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent child victimization. These are all laudable goals, but in order to continue funding their work, NCMEC finds it increasingly necessary to stoke public fears and media hysteria about the largely mythical menace of “stranger danger.”
Take, for example, a recent social media post by NCMEC commemorating the disappearance four years ago of Jason and Sarah Hoggle, who were two and three years old, respectively, at the time. The Twitter post features a big, bold red headline: “MISSING” and makes note of the fact that the children were last seen on September 7, 2014 in Clarksburg, Maryland. (The post also erroneously refers to the boy as “Jason”.) NCMEC displayed a digitally age-progressed photo of what the children may look like now. They look like happy, healthy, good looking kids.
It’s what NCMEC isn’t telling us about this case that should raise a few eyebrows, however.
First, NCMEC conveniently omits the fact that the mother of the children has always been the only suspect in their disappearance. Their father, Troy Turner, last saw his kids at 2:30 pm on September 7, 2014 when he left them and their mother, 31-year-old Catherine Hoggle, at Catherine’s mother’s home in Gaithersburg, Maryland before going to work. Catherine had a long history of schizoaffective disorder, for which she had been taking medication. According to Catherine’s mother, Catherine later took Jacob – alone – for pizza at 4:00 pm, and returned without him, claiming that he was staying at a friend’s house. Troy returned home very late from work that night and didn’t notice that Catherine and the two younger children were missing until the following morning.
Later that same morning, Catherine came home without the children, claiming that she’d left them at a new day care center. At the end of the day, however, the children were nowhere to be found. On their way to the police station, Catherine slipped away from Troy and remained missing for a few days, until she was found wandering the streets of a nearby town. Catherine was charged with misdemeanor parental abduction, neglect, and hindering or obstructing the investigation. She was also judged mentally incompetent to stand trial and placed in a psychiatric hospital, where she has attempted to escape several times, yet remains to this day.
NCMEC also failed to mention another rather salient fact in their postings: A year ago, Catherine Hoggle was indicted for the murders of Jacob and Sarah Hoggle. In Maryland, misdemeanor charges must be dropped if a trial does not take place within three years. A grand jury indicted Catherine Hoggle despite the possibility that she may never be competent to stand trial. Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy explained to reporters that he hopes she can be put on trial once she is restored to competency with the help of medication.
The working presumption of the prosecuting attorney and the father of the children is that Catherine Hoggle murdered Jacob and Sarah. “There has always been a faint hope,” said Troy, “but I know now that Catherine Hoggle killed my babies.”
Those are the facts, as we know them, at this point. Catherine Hoggle has never divulged what happened to the children, nor has she ever given anyone any clues as to where their remains might be found. Troy Turner has been devastated by the loss of his children, and the community at-large remains traumatized by these events and their inability to find any real sense of closure.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is now using these children as marketing tools to drum up financial support and to stoke the ongoing media hysteria surrounding child abductions and sex trafficking. By subtly omitting pertinent facts regarding the mother or the murder indictment, they encourage readers to believe that these children were the victims of stranger abduction or sex trafficking, when in fact, no one believes this to be the case.
NCMEC depends on government grants and contracts to the tune of over $30 million per year and an additional $10 million from individual and corporate donations. To accomplish their fund-raising goals, NCMEC strategically and quite purposefully neglects to mention the fact that an overwhelming majority of all child abductions are perpetrated by family members. They gloss over the fact that 86% of children who end up being trafficked are victimized after going missing from government and social services. They hype their activities targeting registrants, but rarely acknowledge the fact that 93% of sexually driven crimes are committed by a family member or someone known to the victim. Peruse any of their publications, and you might be excused for thinking that the country is experiencing an epidemic of sex crimes and abductions. U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that violent crime victimization has been dropping consistently almost every year from 1993 to 2015. Changes in the DOJ’s data collection methods in 2016 prevent comparisons with previous years, but are consistent with the previous trend downward.
NCMEC has a noble purpose and worthy objectives. But their mission should not depend upon the amoral and questionable techniques of fomenting sex offender hysteria or misinforming the public. This tactic exploits the very children NCMEC is supposed to be protecting and it makes our communities less safe by focusing attention where it is least needed.