Professor pleads not guilty to arson charges

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Rainer Reinscheid

Rainer Reinscheid (AP Photo)

(CNS) – A UC Irvine professor accused of setting a series of fires and making plans to kill students and administrators at an Irvine high school that his son attended before taking his own life pleaded not guilty today to arson charges.

Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, 48, of Irvine, was also ordered to remain in custody without bail, according to Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz.

Reinscheid is charged with two counts each of arson of another’s property and arson of a structure or forest, and one count each of arson of an inhabited dwelling and attempted arson, all felonies, along with a misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer.

Katz wanted Reinscheid to remain on no-bail status because investigators who examined the professor’s cellphone uncovered emails that he sent to his wife in April, allegedly detailing his plans to burn down University High School, commit sexual assaults, buy guns and kill school officials and students before killing himself.

Investigators have also uncovered evidence about Reinscheid’s alleged online searches for information about auto explosions and guns and purchasing weapons, explosives, ammunition and fertilizers, Katz said.

Reinscheid’s 14-year-old son, who was a student at the high school, committed suicide in Mason Park Preserve in Irvine after being disciplined at school in March, Katz said.

Reinscheid is accused of setting fires and attempting to set another blaze between July 4 and July 24. Three of the alleged arsons were on the University High School campus, one was at Mason Park Preserve and another at a school administrator’s home, Katz said.

Reinscheid was arrested about 12:40 a.m. on July 24 in Mason Park Preserve. Irvine officers, who had increased patrols of the park because of recent arsons, came upon Reinscheid as he was allegedly trying to set a blaze with newspaper and lighter fluid, Katz said.

Reinscheid, who allegedly resisted arrest, posted $50,000 bail the same day.

Irvine police found the allegedly threatening emails on Reinscheid’s phone July 27, Katz said, and he was re-arrested that evening.

Reinscheid is an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences and has taught at the university for about 12 years, according to UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon, who said university officials could not comment further.

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