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.”