It’s been three years since Troy Turner awoke in his Maryland home to discover his girlfriend and their two youngest children missing.
Not wanting to cause alarm in their oldest son, Turner dressed the boy and walked him to the school bus stop — all before his girlfriend, Catherine Hoggle, who struggled with mental illness, drove up in his van. She explained that she’d placed Sarah, 3, and Jacob, 2, in a new child care center.
But when it came time to pick them up later that day, Sept. 8, 2014, Turner’s frustration and panic rose when Catherine directed him from place to place with no sign of the children.
“Where are my kids?” he demanded. “Where are my kids?”
He still has no answers. With Catherine, 31, in a state psychiatric hospital and refusing to divulge their whereabouts, Turner, 45, has spent the intervening years spearheading countless searches, passing out thousands of fliers and launching a Facebook page, FindSarahFindJacob.
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On Sept. 14, after years of court battles over Catherine’s mental competency, the search took a turn as authorities charged her with two counts of murder.
She has yet to enter a plea on those charges because the court, which regularly revisits her case, has repeatedly found her to be not competent.
“There’s been no determination of guilt or innocence,” says her attorney David Felsen.
But investigators believe that if the children were alive, “any sensible person would have come forward to say, ‘Here, this has been a big mistake,’ ” says Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Capt. Darren Francke.
“At any time, [Catherine] could have given information on the children’s whereabouts,” Francke tells PEOPLE. “The case would have been resolved, and the children would have been reunited with this family. That hasn’t happened.”
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On the day Turner discovered his children missing, Catherine briefly disappeared as well.
As he drove with her that day to the police station to seek help, she asked him to stop at a fast-food restaurant, from which she texted her mother to say the children were fine. Then Catherine herself vanished — only to turn up several days later wandering the streets and still with no sign of their two kids.
The years in between have left Turner lost and angry. “There’s no easy days,” he says.
He keeps up his search for answers while also consoling and supporting the couple’s oldest child, now 9, who understands he might never again see his younger siblings.
“I told him, ‘They may never come home, you understand that?’ ” Turner says. “I haven’t outright said they died, but he’s come to me and said, ‘Daddy, I know there’s a good chance they’re with God.’ I said, ‘Yes, there is.’ He said, ‘Even if they’re dead, they’re okay.’ And he hugged me.”
“There’s times when I feel like I have to remind him, ‘I’m daddy,’ I have to be strong for him,” Turner says. “I let him know that he doesn’t have to be strong for me.”
But Turner is not stopping or slowing down. “My job is to find my kids,” he says, “and bring them home.”
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Sarah and Jacob Hoggle, call 911 or 1-800-THE LOST.