SANTA ANA (AP) — A University of California professor was held without bail Tuesday after prosecutors said they found evidence he plotted to kill students and administrators at a high school where his son was disciplined before committing suicide.
Rainer Reinscheid, 48, an associate professor of pharmaceuticals at the University of California, Irvine, is charged with arson for a series of five fires set earlier this month at University High School, a school administrator’s house, and a nearby park, where his son killed himself in the spring.
After Reinscheid’s arrest last week, authorities found emails on his cellphone describing a plot to burn down the high school, commit sexual assaults and purchase weapons to murder school officials and students there before killing himself, said Orange County district attorney spokeswoman Farrah Emami.
“I can only at this point tell you, he laid out in sufficient detail plans to purchase guns and murder lots of people,” Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz told The Associated Press.
At a hearing Tuesday, a judge denied Reinscheid bail and postponed his arraignment until Aug. 8 after he was charged with five counts of arson, one count of attempted arson and a misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing a police officer. If convicted, he could get nearly 13 years in prison.
Phone messages left for Reinscheid’s attorney Ron Cordova and at a home number listed in Reinscheid’s name were not immediately returned.
His 14-year-old son had been a student at University High in Irvine and had been disciplined this past spring before he committed suicide at a park preserve.
Prosecutors believe Reinscheid was acting alone but it wasn’t clear if he was targeting anyone specifically.
After the emails were discovered, Emami said Reinscheid, who was free on bail, was arrested again.
“The emails by themselves do not support a criminal charge but they do support our argument that he should be denied bail because he’s dangerous” Emami said.
Reinscheid has been a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UC Irvine, and has been there for about 12 years, said a university spokeswoman, who referred further comment to authorities.
Authorities said Reinscheid is believed to have set five fires and tried to set another, using newspapers, fireplace logs, a book and other items to ignite them.
They said the fires were set on the high school campus, in the Mason Park Preserve, where his son had died, and at the school administrator’s home.
He was arrested at the park preserve on July 24 when Irvine police, who had stepped up patrols in the area because of the fires, said they saw him trying to ignite another one.
Irvine Unified School District Superintendent Terry Walker expressed gratitude to the city’s police department for making the arrest. He said district officials would cooperate in any way they could.
“These are extremely disturbing allegations, particularly as they involve the potential safety of both students and employees,” Walker said in a statement.
Ian Hanigan, a spokesman for the Irvine Unified School District, said Reinscheid’s son, whose name has not been released, was disciplined in March for a theft in the student store, and was punished with trash pick-up duties at lunch.
“It was a relatively minor offense that didn’t rise to suspension or expulsion,” Hanigan said.
The teen committed suicide shortly thereafter at the park, which is adjacent to the high school.
UC Irvine officials released a statement to the campus community saying they take safety seriously and are cooperating fully with authorities.
According to UC Irvine’s website, Reinscheid’s research included studying molecular pharmacology and psychiatric disorders, including studies of schizophrenia, stress, emotional behavior and sleep.
Neighbors say Reinscheid was a comparative newcomer to the tree-lined cul-de-sac of cookie-cutter houses where a number of UC Irvine faculty members, current and retired, live within walking distance of campus.
Neighbor and retired math professor George Miller said Tuesday that he only spoke to Reinscheid once, and other neighbors still refer to Reinscheid’s Spanish-tiled home as “the Reines house.”
That’s because the home was previously owned by Frederick Reines, UC Irvine’s physics professor who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work with Clyde Cowan in detecting the neutrino, Miller said.
Located about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Irvine is home to more than 223,000 people. Its top employer is the University of California campus that was founded there in 1965.
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