[UPDATED with Arraignment Plea:] Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, UCI Professor, Held for Threats and Arsons
See Update No. 6 at the end of this post on Rainer Klaus Reinscheid's plea at arraignment.
Also see Update Nos. 1-5 on: the professor's emailed desire to "shoot at least 200 students before killing myself"; the defense's excuse for his emails; allegations Reinscheid has a violent past; new domestic violence allegations and Facebook support for him; and damning new evidence.
ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 1, 11:51 A.M.: Students at University High School in Irvine say the son of UCI professor and arson suspect Rainer Klaus Reinscheid committed suicide because he was bullied, countering the presumed motive that the 14-year-old was distraught over being disciplined by an assistant principal.
The students played the B-card for KTLA/Channel 5 news reporter Jennifer Gould.
The students conceded they were countering the claims of Uni High officials, who they said sent out a message after the suicide of Reinscheid's son Claas
Reinscheid Stubbe to denying on-campus rumors that bullying had played a part in the 14-year-old's death, according to a KTLA report broadcast this morning.
The Irvine Police Department, which is investigating both the suicide and the arson cases, has also stated there was no evidence of bullying.
But the claims first appeared publicly in the comments section of the Orange County Register's March report on the 14-year-old's suicide.
A portion of those comments follows:
Among the Uni High students who appear in the KTLA video below are Will Howard and Daniel Aliee, who described Reinscheid's son as often appearing sullen in the back row of classes due to the verbal abuse he endured. "He was just one of those kids who was always depressed," Aliee said.
Here is the KTLA video:
The elder Reinscheid, 48, was charged Tuesday with two felony counts of arson of another's property, two felony counts of arson of a structure, one felony count of arson of an inhabited residence, one felony count of attempted arson, and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer.
But, at the behest of Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz, Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Griffin denied bail for Reinscheid due to emails he sent to himself and his wife that allegedly threatened sexual assaults and murders against Uni High students and administrators, to be followed by the father taking his own life.
Because the e-mails were not sent to intended targets, they are not criminal. But the DA's office and Griffin maintain Reinscheid poses a threat to the community because of the messages Irvine Police plucked from the professor's cell phone.
The University of California at Irvine says it is "cooperating fully with authorities" investigating and prosecuting its associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, who has joint appointments with the schools of Medicine and Biological Sciences.
Here is UCI's statement:
The university takes safety seriously and is cooperating fully with authorities regarding this matter. Our thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic chain of events. As you can imagine with any personnel or legal matter, we cannot provide extensive information. We can assure you, however, that our campus will continue to do everything possible to foster a safe environment for our faculty, students and staff.
Authorities have not identified any person or structure at UCI of having been threatened.
Due to personnel confidentiality rules, the university is not commenting on whether Reinscheid has been placed on leave. He has been employed there 10 years.
UPDATE NO. 1, AUG. 1, 12:30 P.M.: The Orange County Register reviewed court documents that include emails Rainer Reinscheid reportedly sent to himself and his wife. Among his messages in April, a month after his 14-year-old son Claas committed suicide:
- "I will find this vice-principal and find out where he lives, then I will wait for him and kill him."
- "I will make him cry and beg, but I will not give him a chance, just like he did to Claas. 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 reason to continue their miserable school that goes over dead bodies, only to save their scores."
- "I am thinking about getting a dozen machine guns, then going to the school and shooting down that asshole vice-principal, then the principal and the stupid counselor lady, but I will stick the gun inside her (vagina) before I pull the trigger, she deserves it. Then I will shoot at least 200 students before killing myself."
UPDATE NO. 2, AUG. 2, 5:06 P.M.: The emails that landed suspected arsonist Rainer Reinscheid behind bars without bail essentially constitute an angry personal journal kept by a distraught father, not actual threats the UCI professor planned to carry out, according to his attorney, Ron Cordova.
There is some supporting evidence for this defense theory. The same emails being used to damn Reinscheid also say something about his state of mind when he wrote them. He expresses sadness and "deep depression" over losing his son and mentions writing one on a second bottle of wine. In another, he divulges he was taking medication to keep from sleeping.
Colleagues on campus say Reinscheid seemed understandably sad after his son Claas Stubbe committed suicide in March, but he never said or did anything to make anyone suspect he wanted to launch a massacre--or any other crime. Bruce Blumberg told the Associated Press that Reinscheid was angry over the probe into his son's death, but the only revenge his colleague talked about was possible legal action against the school district.
One thing that bugged Reinscheid, Irvine Unified now acknowledges, is the way University High Principal John Pehrson broke the news of Stubbe's suicide to the 14-year-old's step-sister, who attends the same school. Three staff members, including a counselor, were present as the girl was the first family member told of Stubbe's death, as his emergency contacts could not be reached. This was a day after Stubbe had been disciplined for an on-campus theft, according to district officials.
But you can't blame law enforcement from acting strongly and swiftly, especially with the Colorado massacre so fresh in everyone's minds. According to court documents, Reinscheid's emails included expressed desires to sexually assault and shoot a female counselor--it is unclear if she was the one in the meeting with the step-sister--and to rape another woman.
And then there's the whole bit about arming himself like an entire strike team and going on a rampage, according to authorities.
"I need a gun, many guns, and then I have the ride of my life, first (the women), then the school administrators, then the rest of the school, then myself ... I will give myself a wonderful ending and be with Claas very soon. I like this plan, finally a good idea," he reportedly wrote April 28.
With five arson fires set between July 4-24--two at Uni High and three at the Costa Mesa home of Assistant Principal Michael Georgino, according to court documents--in the minds of law enforcement the suspect was capable of carrying out mayhem. That bolsters the judge and Orange County District Attorney's office contention that Reinscheid poses a threat to the community.
An argument can also be made that the German citizen posed a flight risk. The university granted Reinscheid a leave of absence from July through late September so he could travel abroad. But, the way the charges are stacking up against the emails he is said to have written, that time off could have also been a ruse to stay put and carry out a sick plot.
Consider this, as revealed in the court documents: In one email he wrote of wanting to join his son "because he needs me," and on the day of Reinscheid's arrest police say they found a new will and, on his computer, a power of attorney filing granting his wife control of finances and custody of their children.
Someone seemed to be planning an exit, one way or the other.
UPDATE NO. 3, AUG. 6, 11:16 A.M.: Suspected arsonist Rainer Reinscheid, who is being held without bail not because of those crimes but threatening emails he allegedly wrote, pushed his
former wife around to the point she began to fear him before later choking and assaulting her in front of their 4-year-old son, according to court documents.
CBS2/KCAL9 TV reporter Stacey Butler reports on the allegations of Zhen "Wendy" Wei, who sought a restraining order against Reinscheid but never filed formal charges before the case was dropped.
The pushing around happened in 2009, and then in February 2010 Reinscheid "pushed me against a wall and grabbed me by my neck area around my jawline with both hands ... very forcefully, choking me, and I had to stand on my toes to breathe," alleged Wei, who claimed to have been left with "swelling and redness around my neck."
UPDATE NO. 4, AUG. 8, 11:20 A.M.: Suspected arsonist Rainer Reinscheid, who is being held without bail because of threats he allegedly made against the Irvine community via personal emails, had his arraignment continued this morning to Aug. 15.
He's now also facing additional charges that could have him serving up to nearly 22 years in state prison with a conviction. The total rap is now eight counts of arson, one count of attempted arson and one count of obstructing an officer.
Meanwhile, new domestic violence allegations have surfaced. First wife Doerte Stubbe-Steinberg, who is reportedly traveling in her native Germany, claimed pretty much the same current wife Wendy did: that Reinscheid pushed and choked her. But the case was dismissed when Stubbe-Steinberg failed to appear at a court hearing.
Reinscheid is collecting support at UCI, where he has been employed for around a decade. The Save Professor Rainer Klaus Reinscheid group on Facebook currently has 77 members. Included are photographs of Reinscheid in happier times to counter "awful" photographs of the professor posted by the media.
UPDATE NO. 5, AUG. 10, 9:41 A.M.: UC Irvine professor Rainer Reinscheid, a suspected arsonist who is being held without bail because of violent emails allegedly discovered on his cell phone and in his computer, is being hammered by the latest revelations about the case.
Irvine Police detectives claim that before the German national's arrest in late July, he'd done multiple Internet searches for guns, gun laws, car bombs, other explosives and fertilizer--not because, authorities assume, he wanted a greener lawn but because he planned a local version of Timothy McVeigh's deadly Oklahoma City federal building blast.
Reinscheid's attorney and supporters have said the professor's email ramblings are that of a deeply grieving father working things out through journaling. But to those who have a large swath of public to protect, the searches indicate a possible step between fantasy and reality.
And today comes the kicker: a July 17 email allegedly written by Reinscheid to 10 recipients identified as ""all of you wonderful women in my life" that has him admitting to setting multiple fires at University High School and the Costa Mesa home of Assistant Principal Michael Georgino.
Reinscheid, who is also accused of setting three at Mason Park in Irvine, where his 14-year-old son and Uni High student hung himself, also searched the net for "Georgino," according to detectives.
"I have tried to burn down Georgino's house and the fucking school, but I was not strong enough, I tried multiple times but I failed," Reinscheid wrote in the email, reports the Orange County Register this morning, citing court documents.
It's unclear so far whether the professor actually hit the send button.
UPDATE NO. 6, AUG. 16, 8:32 A.M.: UC Irvine professor Rainer Reinscheid pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Santa Ana Wednesday to setting a string of arson fires.
Despite his lawyer Ron Cordova telling the court what police and prosecutors have described as threatening emails were actually a form of grief therapy, Judge Karen Robinson agreed with the Orange County District Attorney's office that Reinscheid's bail should be denied because of potential harm to the community.
"We don't believe these are just the rantings and musings of a grieving father," Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz, referring to the suicide of Reinscheid's son that apparently set off the professor, explained to reporters after the 10-minute hearing. "These threats need to be taken seriously."
The German national appeared calm and emotionless during the arraignment, rising only when Robinson addressed him. His sanity during the past several weeks might form the basis of a defense, but Cordova said afterward, "I have no doubts of his mental health." Had he, the attorney would have entered a different plea and sought the intervention of a court-appointed mental health professional.
However, Cordova has noted Reinscheid was under the influence of alcohol and/or on prescription sleep medication when he wrote the emails that now have the academic locked up.
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