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Son's Suicide Pushed UCI Prof Over Edge, Some Say

Police and neighbors suggest Rainer Reinscheid's alleged arson and bizarre murder plot were tied to anger over his child's death.

A few months ago, Rainer Klaus Reinscheid was a married father of three, a longstanding college professor and a respected expert in neurophysiology and psychiatric disorders. He lived in the same campus home a neighbor says once housed UC Irvine's first Nobel laureate. 

But on Tuesday, prosecutors told a judge that Reinscheid is a dangerous man who must remain locked up for public safety. Irvine police said they arrested Reinscheid before he could carry out a murderous rampage targeting teachers and students at University High School in Irvine.

Now, investigators and those who know Reinscheid are trying to understand how his life unraveled so quickly.

“It’s safe to say that it’s connected to his son’s suicide,” said Irvine Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Julia Engen.

In May, Reinscheid’s 14-year-old son, a freshman at University High, hanged himself in nearby Mason Regional Park. After the tragedy, the Reinscheid family withdrew, according to those who knew them.

But Rainer Reinscheid seethed with rage, according to police.

On July 24, while police investigated a series of small fires near Uni High, as it's called, and Mason Regional Park, they allegedly caught Reinscheid setting a new fire, Engen said.

By Friday, detectives had linked Reinscheid to a series of fires near the school, at the park, and near the home of a Uni High staffer, she said.

“That changed everything,” said Engen. “It’s no longer a distraught father lighting fires near where his son committed suicide. That is targeting somebody. ... That makes him a very real threat to students and staff.”

Investigators searched his phone and home computer and found detailed plans for murder, Engen said.

In emails to himself—and one to his wife—Reinscheid outlined in “articulate and graphic detail his desire to commit violent acts, sexual assaults and murders of faculty and students at the school,” Engen added.

The targets were unnamed students and specific administrators whom Reinscheid blamed for his son’s death, according to prosecutors.

Neighbors Recall 'Private' Family

The quiet, on-campus cul-de-sac where the Reinscheid family lives was tranquil Tuesday afternoon, with the exception of news vans rolling through to take video footage in front of the home.

The family's white, two-story house appeared deserted.

One neighbor who asked not to be identified called the Reinscheids "a really great family."

Another resident of the cul-de-sac said he only met Reinscheid once, but knew the home's previous residents—physicist Frederick Reines, one of UCI's first Nobel Prize winners, and his wife, Sylvia.

After the Reinscheids' son died, the parents were not seen out as much, recalled the first neighbor. But the family's two other children still played with other neighborhood kids, they said.

Diane Eppstein, who lives on an adjacent street, recalled that after the son's suicide, the Reinscheid family remained "very, very private."

Although some families in their section of UCI on-campus housing are socially active, the Reinscheids "kept to themselves," she added.

Eppstein's son belonged to a group that played the online game Minecraft with the Reinsheid teen, she said. After the boy's death, the group set up an online memorial, she recalled.

On Tuesday prosecutors said authorities were reexamining what took place at the high school.

When he died, police investigators followed up on online rumors that bullying might have been a factor in the Reinscheid boy’s suicide, said Engen, the Irvine Police Department spokeswoman.

“We interviewed parents, and we interviewed his friends, and there was no bullying,” Engen said. “As far as what drove him to commit suicide, I don’t think it’s possible to know what was going on in his mind now.”

Reinscheid’s mind frame is equally unfathomable, added Engen.

“He seems to be pretty angry with the school -- That much is fair to say,” she added. “Although I can’t say what would drive him to want to hurt teachers and students.”

Shripathi Kamath August 01, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I would wait for a professional evaluation, because as bizarre as some mental illnesses are, this one's beyond the pale. It is one thing to be distraught over his son's suicide, it is not unheard of that he sees someone responsible (the school, administrators) to the point that he wants harm done. But to be enraged enough to use sexual assault in that revenge? That one is extraordinary. So far he seems to have lit fires, unclear whether the fires were dangerous, with intent to harm or something else. "But Rainer Reinscheid seethed with rage, according to police." Did he resist arrest, threaten cops or neighbors as he was being arrested, something else? "“articulate and graphic detail his desire to commit violent acts, sexual assaults and murders of faculty and students at the school,” " OK, what are these graphic details? Weapons? How many sexual assaults did he plan, and who were his specific targets, what dates was he articulating? I hope Patch keeps on this story, especially when mental health professionals and defense attorneys get involved.
Sarah de Crescenzo (Editor) August 01, 2012 at 06:15 PM
@Shri: He resisted arrest in the park where he was allegedly setting a fire on July 24. We haven't gotten copies of the emails yet so we don't have exact details. We've learned that he didn't name which students he was targeting, but did have specific administrators in mind.
Shripathi Kamath August 01, 2012 at 10:00 PM
From the OC: http://www.ocregister.com/news/school-366639-professor-emails.html "In summary, the emails describe the defendant's plan to exact revenge against University High, particularly the assistant principal, whom the defendant holds responsible for the hanging suicide of defendant's son in March after being disciplined by the assistant principal," Plan? Plan is a stretch. More like a angry, violent, fantasy. In an email to *himself*: ""I am thinking about getting a dozen machine guns, then going to the school and shooting down that a------- vice-principal, then the principal and the stupid counselor lady, but I will stick the gun inside her (private part) before I pull the trigger, she deserves it." About the only reference, so far, to the rape/sexual assault in the "planned" rape and murder spree. What exactly was his son disciplined for?
John B. Greet August 02, 2012 at 12:52 AM
"I will find this vice-principal and find out where he lives, then I will wait for him and kill him," Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, 48, of Irvine, wrote in one April email to his wife, Wendy Reinscheid. "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." http://www.ocregister.com/news/school-366639-professor-emails.html Sounds like a plan to commit specific criminal acts to me (pre-meditated murder and arson.) A plan clearly communicated to another, not only himself. A plan he began to put into action when he actually started setting fires. "Reinscheid has been charged with two felony counts of arson of another's property, two counts of arson of a structure, one count of arson of an inhabited residence, one count of attempted arson, and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer. The fires were set between July 4 and 24 – three of them at the home of University High assistant principal Michael Georgino in Costa Mesa and two fires at University High School, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in court." (more)
John B. Greet August 02, 2012 at 01:02 AM
The planned "sexual assault" had to do with this clause: "...and the stupid counselor lady, but I will stick the gun inside her (private part) before I pull the trigger, she deserves it" and also this information in the OCR story: "In graphic detail in the emails – two to his wife and one to himself, the latter reading like a journal entry – Reinscheid described how he would sexually assault and shoot a University High School counselor and expressed a desire to rape another woman. Regardless of what the mental health folks eventually recommend, I am *very* glad that Irvine PD arrested this guy before he could do any serious harm to anyone. Any communication in which a person expresses a desire to "shoot at least 200 students" simply must be taken extremely seriously. Even so: "No charges stem from the emails because the criminal threats were not communicated to any potential victims, D.A. spokeswoman Farrah Emami said. 'The emails themselves do not support a criminal charge, but support a need to hold him without bail,' she said."
shelly August 02, 2012 at 03:54 AM
I have to wonder, he wrote these emails in April. What did hid wife think about them. Did she do anything or contact anyone? He didn't get caught until July. It's a good thing all he managed to do was a couple of fires. Not that that is good, but it could have been a lot worse. I would imagine had it been, his wife surely wouldn't have been able to live with herself. This should be a wake up call. Pay attention to your friends, your family, listen and I mean listen to your children.
Joaquin De Murrieta October 12, 2012 at 04:23 PM
If this was your child or son who commited suicide and you later find out he was "pressured into feeling less then human unless his grades or his status quo was met" Especially a child who is young and still innocent and cant handle people who try to exhume a feeling superiorty over you then it can harm a childs self esteem so bad it can cause him to resort to wanting to off himself. You would totally be on Rienchilds side. You would want to gut the Vice Principle and leave him there while he watches his intestine coming out of him while he slowly dies...Shoot I have met many a professor that was a racist, hateful, degrading, and ignorant person that deserves every kind of punishment due him. But I dont because I have let God deal with them and Gods Punishements are way more effective then what I can come up with..But If something was done to harm that child in some way I would look at the directors of that school... Look at those in the system...Its always the system that protects itself...So look to destroy that system..Thats the problem...Its always been that...

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