Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, the former UC Irvine professor so upset with his son's suicide that he wrote e-mails detailing plans to murder students and administrators at the teen's high school, pleaded guilty under a court deal today to arson counts that could send him to prison for three to 18 years. The Irvine 49-year-old knows about life behind bars, having been held without bail since July 27, 2012.
Reinscheid's 14-year-old son Claas Reinscheid Stubbe hung himself in March 2012 at Mason Park, near his Irvine home. Some fellow students at University High School claimed Stubbe was bullied after earlier reports claimed the boy was upset over having been disciplined at school.
The elder Reinscheid, distraught over his son taking his life, committed six arsons and three attempted arsons between July 4-24, 2012, by lighting various objects on fire including newspapers, brush and vegetation, a book, and a plastic porch chair. He used fireplace logs in some cases as an accelerant. His targets were Mason Park, his son's former high school campus and the Costa Mesa home of an assistant principal.
Irvine police officers saw Reinscheid try to set a fire at Mason Park on July 24, 2012, the day he was arrested (after putting up resistance to being taken into custody). He later made his $50,000 bail and was released.
But further investigation not only revealed he was tied to other arson fires and attempts but that he had written emails to his wife in April 2012 detailing plans to purchase firearms, burn down Uni High and murder and sexually assault school officials and students. He'd also done online searches related to purchasing weapons, explosives and fertilizer. Based on this new information, the German native was re-arrested on July 27, 2012, and held without bail.
His defense claimed the emails were essentially journals grieving people write to get their feelings out and that the professor had not plans to carry his threats out. But after an offer from Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett, Reinscheid pleaded guilty today to one felony count of arson of another's property, three felony counts of arson of forestland, two felony counts of arson of a structure, three felony counts of attempted arson, one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer, and sentencing enhancements for the use of an accelerant.
Reinscheid is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 1 in Santa Ana. He could have got 21 years and four months in prison if he had not pleaded guilty. No criminal charges were ever filed in connection with the email threats, but they could play a part in the amount of time he gets from the judge, according to Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz.
According to his UCI bio, Reinscheid was an associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, and he had joint appointments in pharmacology with the School of Medicine and molecular biology and biochemistry in the School of Biological Sciences. He received his doctorate in 1993 from the Center for Molecular Neurobiology in Hamburg.
He led or participated in widely published research into stress, emotional behavior, sleep and wakefulness, memory functions, colon cancer and schizophrenia. Some of Reinscheid's work just before his arrest was partly funded by National Institute of Mental Health grants.
He was on leave from the university when his downward spiral began.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.