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Professor accused of plotting school murders was 'angry, unsatisfied'

August 1, 2012 | 11:51 am

Rainer Reinscheid

A UC Irvine professor accused of plotting mass murder at a local high school after his teenage son committed suicide was upset with the handling of the case, a colleague said.

Police arrested Rainer Reinscheid, a 48-year-old professor at UC Irvine, in connection with threats contained in emails as well as several arson fires he allegedly set.

Acquaintances say Reinscheid had been furious at University High School for how it handled his son's death.

"He was angry and unsatisfied with the investigation into his son's death," said Bruce Blumberg, a professor in Reinscheid's department at UC Irvine. Blumberg described 14-year-old Claas Stubbe as "a sweet and sensitive boy."

The case began last week when Reinscheid was arrested on charges of trying to light a fire in Mason Park Preserve with newspaper and lighter fluid. It was not far from the wooded spot where his son had hanged himself four months earlier.

Reinscheid, who teaches in the pharmaceutical science department, posted bail and was released that day.

But when police examined his cellphone three days later, they found something they described as much more sinister: emails in which he allegedly spoke of committing mass murder at University High School, the campus his son had attended.

In the emails, Reinscheid allegedly had planned to obtain firearms to murder students and administrators, commit sexual assault, burn down the school and then kill himself, said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office.

"We did take these emails very seriously," Emami said.

The professor was arrested again and is now being held without bail at the request of prosecutors.

Police in Irvine, which frequently touts itself as the nation's safest city of its size, say they did not uncover evidence that he had actually put any such murder plot into motion.

"We did not find diagrams and stores of weapons, but he articulated in very concerning language the desire to harm all those people," said Lt. Julia Engen, spokeswoman for the Irvine Police Department. "We have to presume that that's what he wanted to do."

Engen said police increased patrols in the University High area after a series of small fires in and around the school started July 4.

The fires did not injure anyone or burn down any structures but left school property scorched, Engen said, and police feared that another fire might ignite the preserve's dry brush and cause a major conflagration.

Police said Reinscheid tried to flee when he was found in the preserve last Tuesday. During the investigation, authorities said, police linked Reinscheid to recent acts of arson at the home of Michael Georgino, an assistant principal at University High School.

Before his suicide, Claas Stubbe was disciplined for what Irvine Unified School District spokesman Ian Hanigan described as a "fairly minor" matter involving a theft from a student store. He was given trash pickup duty as a punishment.

There were rumors the boy had been bullied, though Hanigan maintained that no evidence was found to support the claim. Irvine police said they were unable to verify what drove him to suicide.

"There is just a tragic situation for [Reinscheid] and his family," Engen said, but added: "This is such an irrational response…. This is not a normal grieving."

— Christopher Goffard and Kate Mather

Photo: UC Irvine professor Rainer Reinscheid, 48, is shown Tuesday on a video screen at Santa Ana Central Jail. Irvine police originally linked him to a series of fires near University High School, but say they found evidence of an alleged mass murder plot in his emails. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times.