UC Irvine professor plotted deaths after son's suicide, D.A. says
The UC Irvine professor accused of setting fires at his son's high school and plotting to kill students and officials did so after his teenage son committed suicide at a nature preserve near the school, prosecutors said.
Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, 48, of Irvine, was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon on felony arson charges in connection with a series of fires set at University High School, nearby Mason Park Preserve and the home of an assistant principal this month, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.
After his July 24 arrest, investigators discovered emails on Reinscheid's cellphone addressed to himself and his wife from April.
He described detailed plans to "burn down University High School, commit sexual assaults, purchase firearms and murder school officials and students, and then kill himself," the district attorney's office said.
Irvine Unified School District Supt. Terry Walker called the allegations "extremely disturbing" in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. School officials are assisting with the ongoing investigation "in any way we can," he said.
"As troubling as these charges are, we are reassured that law enforcement officials believe he acted alone and that he is currently behind bars," Walker said.
Prosecutors said Reinscheid's 14-year-old son attended the high school and was disciplined in March. Sometime after the incident, they said, the teen committed suicide in the Mason Park preserve.
District spokesman Ian Hanigan described the incident involving Reinscheid's son as a "fairly minor disciplinary case" that involved a theft from a student store. The teenager was given trash pickup duty as punishment, he said.
"Obviously we take bullying allegations very seriously, so even the faintest whisper would start an inquiry," he said.
"No stone was left unturned. In addition to talking to the boy's family and friends, investigators and school resources officers talked to a number of individuals who posted rumors on social media sites," he said.
"What they found was that a lot of people were speculating," he said. "The did not find any evidence of bullying."
Reinscheid, an associated professor of pharmaceutical science, has taught at UC Irvine for about 12 years, university spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said. Lawhon declined to say what his employment status was in light of the charges, saying she "can't comment on any personnel issues."
She also declined to say anything about Reinscheid or his behavior following his son's death.
Reinscheid is accused of using a variety of objects — including newspapers, fireplace logs and a plastic chair — to set the fires between July 4 and July 24, officials said. Irvine police stepped up their patrols of the Mason Park Preserve in response to the fires and arrested Reinscheid as he allegedly tried to start a fire about 12:45 a.m. July 24.
He was released on bail later that day, but was rearrested July 27 after the emails were discovered.
Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said prosecutors were unable to pursue criminal charges on the threats because the emails were private, but that they would be used during Reinscheid's arraignment Tuesday.
"We believe he's dangerous, and we believe he's a risk to public safety," she said.
Reinscheid faces five felony counts of arson and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 12 years and eight months in prison.
-- Kate Mather
Photo: Rainer Klaus Reinscheid Credit: Orange County district attorney's office