SANTA ANA (AP) — Rainer Reinscheid was into his second bottle of wine when he wrote a chilling email titled, “a good plan,” detailing violent revenge on the people he blamed for his teen son’s suicide.
His son hanged himself after being disciplined at high school in March, sending the UC Irvine professor into a downward spiral that authorities said led to setting fires and venting his anger in graphic emails describing plans for a mass murder, sexual assaults and his own death.
Reinscheid fantasized about buying a dozen machine guns, killing 200 University High School students, raping a school counselor and killing the assistant principal who disciplined his 14-year-old son, Claas Stubbe.
“I will make him cry and beg, but I will not give him a chance, just like he did to Claas,” Reinscheid wrote. “I will make him die, slowly, surely. Next I will set fire to Uni High and try to burn down as much as I can, there should be nothing left that gives them a reason to continue their miserable school.”
Reinscheid never acted on his most violent musings and police have no evidence he was preparing for a shooting, but prosecutors charged him with a series of small arsons that targeted the high school, the assistant principal’s home and the park where Claas hanged himself.
Five fires erupted between July 1 and July 19, and police caught Reinscheid as he tried to start a sixth one July 24, Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said.
While investigating the fires, police discovered three emails Reinscheid sent to his wife and himself in April from his university account. Copies of the messages were filed in court by prosecutors to have him held without bail. He’s due in court for arraignment Aug. 8.
In the emails, the distraught father asks his wife to forgive him for many disappointments but asks her to understand that he “had to go this way” after detailing plans to kill the vice principal and destroy the school in a firestorm.
“You would have done the same if it was your child that you failed,” he wrote to her April 26.
Claas was Reinscheid’s son from a first marriage. He has a stepdaughter and son from his second marriage.
He asked his wife to tell their son, “Daddy was so sad when Claas passed away, he was just eaten away by his sadness and stopped breathing.”
Two nights later, while on medication to stay awake and “legally drunk” while downing a second bottle of wine, Reinscheid wrote to himself about how he had fantasized about having sex with every young girl he saw on campus that day.
Then he discussed his “dreams” of mass murder at the high school, including explicit details of how he planned to make a teacher get naked in front of students and stab herself with a red pencil before he shot her in the head.
“I will give myself a wonderful ending and be with Claas very soon,” he wrote. “I like this plan, finally a good idea.”
Reinscheid, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences who also holds German citizenship, has not been charged with anything related to the content of the emails because they were private communications, said Farrah Emami, an Orange County district attorney’s spokeswoman.
Defense attorney Ron Cordova did not return multiple calls for comment. He told the judge in court Tuesday that he didn’t want his client to “suffer from a media circus.”
Bruce Blumberg, a pharmaceutical colleague at UC Irvine, said Reinscheid was angry over the investigation into his son’s suicide and was considering legal action against the school district.
“This is all a tragedy,” said Blumberg. “A boy is dead and he shouldn’t be and his father is doing allegedly crazy things that he shouldn’t be doing. It’s all a crazy situation.”
The son killed himself March 14 after being ordered to pick up trash for stealing from the student store.
After the suicide, rumors circulated around school that the teen had been bullied, but police and the school district say they found no such evidence.
Ian Hanigan, a district spokesman, said Reinscheid was angry with school administrators because they informed the teen’s stepsister of his death at the school, with no family members present, after failing to reach anyone on her emergency contact list. The school had no other complaints from Reinscheid after his son’s death and the professor hadn’t threatened any school administrators.
Blumberg’s wife, Dejoie, remains close friends with Claas’ mother, Doerte Stubbe. She said Claas seemed affected by his parents’ divorce and split time between Reinscheid and his mother, who has multiple sclerosis.
After the boy’s death, Stubbe told her Reinscheid said he was writing “goodbye letters” to everyone.
“At that point she said that she just didn’t care and I figured it was him grieving, venting and that sort of thing. There was no threat,” Dejoie Blumberg said. “I figured he was very, very and extremely depressed — as any parent would be.”
Longtime friend Olivier Civelli, chairman of the pharmacology department, said Reinscheid was devastated by his son’s suicide but tried to keep it quiet at work. He showed no signs of the deep anger evident in the emails.
“Rainer is not a violent person. Rainer never had a gun, I can tell you that,” said Civelli, who picked up Reinscheid’s car after his arrest last week. “I think that maybe he was doing that to vent his anger, he was telling (it) to someone who was close — his wife.”
That’s an argument Reinscheid’s defense would likely use if the case goes to trial — and perhaps an argument that could keep the emails away from a jury entirely, said Jacqueline Goodman, a criminal defense attorney.
His attorney will likely argue that Reinscheid never intended to act on his writings, and was simply expressing his anguish.
“You have to take into account the context in which these writings come. He’s so emotionally distressed and now he’s under the comingled influence of psychotropic drugs and alcohol and he’s writing these things — not acting on them — just writing them down,” Goodman said. “He’s clearly not in his right mind. It’s like writing in a diary.”
When police searched Reinscheid’s car, they found a red folder containing a newly signed will and also discovered a power of attorney document on his computer that gave his wife control over his finances and children, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press.
Reinscheid has been at UC Irvine for about a dozen years and rode his bike to work every day from his house on campus. His research included studying molecular pharmacology and psychiatric disorders, including studies of schizophrenia, stress, emotional behavior and sleep, according to the school’s website.
He had requested a leave of absence from UCI, according to a police report.