One of Jackson County's most notorious thieves is returning to the area after his prison sentence was cut short by nearly two years.

One of Jackson County's most notorious thieves is returning to the area after his prison sentence was cut short by nearly two years.

Police and victims of Eric One Ziegler's crime rampage, during which he broke into more than 60 cars and made off with at least $50,000 in property, are disturbed that he qualified for early release.

"Many of the people we deal with are basically good people who make a series of bad choices," Jackson County sheriff's Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan said. "But Eric One Ziegler had no conscience and I don't think he is a capable of rehabilitation."

Ziegler, 36, pleaded guilty in 2004 to a dozen charges, including first-degree burglary, aggravated first-degree theft, first-degree theft and identity theft for a spree that had police scrambling to solve a huge increase in car break-ins and burglaries across the Rogue Valley.

Ziegler was sentenced to six years in prison. However, incarceration did not keep him from indulging in a life of crime.

Less than a year later, he was linked to more identity thefts, mostly from his previous victims, once he landed behind bars. He received the victims' information from police reports provided to him by his probation officer.

In addition, he was charged with felony witness-tampering for threatening to kill his former accomplice, a woman whom police say has since gotten her life back together, from behind bars.

These crimes added an additional two years onto Ziegler's sentence. He will not serve those two years after being awarded early release.

Ziegler recently was accepted into an alternative incarceration program and is expected to be released on May 20, according to Oregon Department of Corrections documents obtained by the Mail Tribune.

There was language included in Ziegler's plea deal that opened the door to early release, Fagan said.

"This is exactly why some people have had their faith shaken by the criminal justice system," Fagan said.

Jackson County Commissioner C.W. Smith is one of those who believe the system could use some serious repair. Ziegler broke into a car belonging to Smith's wife. He stole money and personal items from the car, Smith said.

"It was devastating to us," Smith said. "It wasn't so much the money, but the keepsakes from our children were difficult to lose."

During extensive interviews in 2004 with Fagan and Medford Detective Bill Ford, Ziegler estimated he had broken into more than 500 cars in his lifetime. His crime spree led local police to Eugene, Klamath Falls and several other areas of Portland where merchandise Ziegler nabbed from cars and homes appeared in pawn shops.

Fagan and Ford plan to meet with Ziegler and his probation officer once he returns to Medford.

If he commits a criminal act or violates the terms of his parole within his first 90 days of freedom, he will be returned to prison to finish his sentence, Fagan said.

Medford police Deputy Chief Tim George said he hopes Ziegler has learned a lesson during his time in prison, but he is doubtful.

"Whether he can stay out of trouble is not a bet I'm willing to make," George said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.