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UCI professor faces new charge in alleged plot to kill students

January 16, 2013 | 12:35 pm

Students outside University High School in Irvine.

The UC Irvine professor charged with setting fires at his son's high school, a school administrator's home and a nearby park — which came in the months after the 14-year-old boy committed suicide — will face an additional arson charge, Orange County prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, 49, already faces nine felony charges related to arson and will be charged Thursday with an additional felony count of arson of a structure, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office. 

Emails later found on the professor's cellphone indicated he had threatened to burn down the high school and kill students and officials before killing himself, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Reinscheid's son attended University High School in Irvine and was disciplined for a minor theft-related incident. The next day, prosecutors said, the boy committed suicide in Mason Park Preserve in Irvine. 

From July 4 to July 24 of last year, prosecutors said Reinscheid allegedly committed nine arsons and one attempted arson — lighting newspapers, brush and vegetation, a book and a plastic porch chair — at University High School, the home of an assistant principal of the school and in Mason Park Preserve.

In some instances, he is accused of using fireplace logs as an accelerant. 

Shortly after midnight on July 24,  officers  -- on stepped-up patrols following the string of arsons -- stopped Reinscheid as he attempted to start a fire using newspaper and lighter fluid, prosecutors said.

Reinscheid is accused of refusing to comply with orders to stop and attempted to resist arrest, prompting a misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer, prosecutors said.

Reinscheid posted $50,000 bail and was released from custody that day, prosecutors said.

But as the investigation continued, detectives found drafts of emails on Reinscheid's cellphone that described in detail a plan to burn down University High School, commit sexual assaults and purchase firearms to murder school officials and students before killing himself, according to prosecutors.

On July 27, he was re-arrested.

At an arraignment days later, he was held without bail because of concerns that he posed a threat to the community, prosecutors said.


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— Rick Rojas

Photo: Students outside University High School in Irvine. Credit: Don Bartletti