EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Patrick John Hauger is an inmate in the Lane County Jail awaiting trial in May on charges of burglary and theft.
He is a convicted felon for such past crimes as possession of methamphetamine, theft and burglary.
Yet when he was approached by a fellow inmate — whom he described as a “young punk” — looking to sell a stolen ring, Hauger, 31, wasn’t interested.
That is, until he saw it for himself — a silver, World War II-era ring with the inscription “U.S. Army Pacific Air Command.”
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“I immediately became angry and emotional when I saw (it),” Hauger wrote in a letter to The Register-Guard. “Because my father, who has died, was U.S. Air Force, and my grandfather who was a U.S. Marine. … I immediately knew what must be done.”
So Hauger is looking to reunite the ring with its rightful owner, and the Lane County Sheriff’s Office is helping him try to do that.
“What if that was a widow’s husband’s ring? What if it was a grandson’s grandfather’s? What if it was your service ring? Or your son’s?” Hauger wrote.
“Someone is bound to know someone or something. Let’s get this family their ring back!”
“This doesn’t happen,” jailer says
The Pacific Air Command was a branch of the U.S. Army Air Corps established in 1945, according to the U.S. Army historical archive. It disbanded in 1947 when the U.S. Air Force became its own independent military branch.
Hauger said the inmate wanted to sell the ring to other inmates in exchange for commissary items or prescription drugs, plus $10 for the scrapped silver.
Upset that the ring could become scrapped metal without “even acknowledging the priceless value of the brave and honorable man who owned it, or woman,” Hauger wrote that he collected all that he could to buy the ring.
He said he paid for it with candy, food, shoes, toiletries and his dinner tray.
Knowing he couldn’t do much from behind bars, Hauger gave the ring to a jail deputy, asking for help in finding the ring’s owner. The deputy turned the ring over to a supervisor.
“This doesn’t happen, where somebody actually says, ‘Hey, this belongs to someone else,’?” and wants to return it, Jail Commander Dan Buckwald said.
The ring has been turned over to the Lane County Sheriff’s Office property and evidence unit. The owner of the ring can call 541-682-4332 to provide a detailed description.
In the letter, Hauger wrote about his life and how he ended up in the Lane County Jail — again. In his latest arrest, he is accused of stealing $1,000 in clothing in May 2017 from Fred Meyer on West 11th Avenue.
He wrote that he’s struggled with mental illness, drug addiction and homelessness throughout his adult life.
Hauger is scheduled to appear in the court in May on the latest charges against him.
In a March 16 letter to the judge who will decide his case, Hauger wrote that he was from Pennsylvania, but moved to Gig Harbor, Washington, at age 15. When he was 16, his best friend hanged himself, Hauger wrote. He described his friend’s suicide as a “turning point” that led him down “a dangerous road.”
“I stopped going to school. I stopped playing sports … and broke my mother’s heart,” he wrote to Lane County Circuit Judge Debra Vogt.
Hauger ran away from home and began using alcohol and marijuana, he wrote. In the years that followed, he spent time in mental health facilities and in jail for petty crimes.
He asked Vogt to sentence him in a manner that requires him to stay on medications and in the care of mental health professionals. If he doesn’t follow through with the judge’s orders, he wrote that he wants to be sanctioned.
“I miss my doctor appointment? Sanction. I’m off my meds? Sanction,” he said. “I am pleading to the court to save me from a life in prison for nonsense crimes.”
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com