By Amy Taxin Associated Press
SANTA ANA, Calif. — Rainer Reinscheid was into his second bottle of wine when he wrote a chilling email titled, “a good plan,” detailing how he wanted to get revenge on the people he blamed for his son’s suicide.
Reinscheid’s son hung himself hours after being disciplined by the assistant principal at his high school in Irvine, setting the university professor on a weekslong downward spiral that authorities say included setting small fires and sending emails in which he vented his anger about school officials.
He wrote about fantasizing about buying a dozen guns, killing 200 University High students, sexually assaulting a school counselor and killing the assistant principal who was the last person to speak to his son, 14-year-old Claas Stubbe.
“I will make him cry and beg, but I will not give him a chance, just like he did to Claas,” Reinscheid wrote. “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 a reason to continue their miserable school.”
The emails, which prosecutors say he wrote to himself and to his wife, were obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday from court filings.
Reinscheid never acted on his most violent musings, but prosecutors charged him with setting a series of arson fires that targeted his late son’s school, the assistant principal’s home and the park where the boy hanged himself. Five fires erupted between July 1 and July 19 and police apprehended Reinscheid as he tried to start a sixth one on July 24, Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said.
The emails were discovered on Reinscheid’s smartphone by police who were investigating the arsons and were filed by prosecutors in court to support a successful motion to deny bail.
Police believe Reinscheid acted alone and investigators discovered no evidence that he was preparing for a shooting, Engen said.
Reinscheid, who also holds German citizenship, has not been charged with anything related to the content of the emails because they were private communications between Reinscheid and his wife, said Farrah Emami, a district attorney spokeswoman.
Defense attorney Ron Cordova did not return multiple calls for comment. He told the judge in court Tuesday that he didn’t want his client to “suffer from a media circus.”
In an email to himself in April, while he was on medication to stay awake and drinking his second bottle of wine, Reinscheid wrote he had dreams of burning down the school and killing himself in the place where his son died. He also told his wife he loved her and was sorry if he disappointed her, and asked her to take care of her two children as a single mother.
“I hope you will tell Timmy only one story: Daddy was so sad when Claas passed away, he was just eaten away by his sadness and stopped breathing,” he wrote to his wife.
Reinscheid’s late son was his child from a first marriage. He also has a step-daughter and son from his second marriage.
The case began on March 14, when the teen hanged himself after being disciplined by the assistant principal for stealing from a student store.
Reinscheid, a professor at the University of California, Irvine’s pharmaceutical sciences department, struggled with his son’s suicide and was angry with school officials, who he believed hadn’t properly handled his son’s case, family friends said.
After the suicide, rumors circulated around school that the teen had been bullied, but police and the school district say they investigated and found no evidence.
Ian Hanigan, a district spokesman, said Reinscheid was angry with school administrators because they informed the teen’s step-sister of his death at the school, with no family members present, after trying to reach everyone on her emergency contact list with no luck. The school had no other complaints from Reinscheid after his son’s death and the professor hadn’t threatened any school administrators, Hanigan said.
Bruce Blumberg, a colleague at UC Irvine, said Reinscheid was angry over the investigation into his son’s suicide and was considering legal action against the district. Blumberg’s daughter was good friends with Claas as a young child and the families socialized frequently until the boy’s parents divorced, he said.
“I think everyone would like to see the circumstances surrounding Claas’ death enlightened,” said Blumberg, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences. “This is all a tragedy. A boy is dead and he shouldn’t be and his father is doing allegedly crazy things that he shouldn’t be doing. It’s all a crazy situation.”
Dejoie Blumberg, Bruce Blumberg’s wife, remains close friends with Claas’ mother, Doerte Stubbe. She said that Claas seemed affected by his parents’ divorce and split time between Reinscheid and his mother, who has multiple sclerosis.
A few years ago, the boy was having trouble in school but got a tutor and was doing better, Dejoie Blumberg said.
After the boy’s death, Stubbe said that Reinscheid emailed her and said he was writing “goodbye letters” to everyone, she recalled.
“At that point she said that she just didn’t care and I figured it was him grieving, venting and that sort of thing. There was no threat,” Dejoie Blumberg said. “I didn’t want to press her for more. I figured he was very, very and extremely depressed — as any parent would be.”
Another colleague and longtime friend, Olivier Civelli, said Reinscheid was devastated by his son’s suicide but tried to keep it quiet at work. He showed no signs of the deep anger evident in the emails, said Civelli, professor and chairman of the pharmacology department.
“That doesn’t fit with the Rainer I know. I can tell you that is not the Rainer I know. Rainer is not a violent person. Rainer never had a gun, I can tell you that,” said Civelli, who helped Reinscheid by picking up his car after his arrest last week.
“I think that maybe he was doing that to vent his anger, he was telling (it) to someone who was close — his wife,” Civelli said.
That’s an argument that Reinscheid’s defense attorney will likely use with the jury when the case goes to trial — and perhaps an argument that could keep the emails away from the jury’s eyes entirely, said Jacqueline Goodman, a criminal defense attorney in Orange County.
His attorney will likely argue that Reinscheid never intended to act on his writings, which he calls “dreams” at one point, and was simply expressing his anguish, she said.
“You have to take into account the context in which these writings come. He’s so emotionally distressed and now he’s under the comingled influence of psychotropic drugs and alcohol and he’s writing these things — not acting on them — just writing them down,” Goodman said. “He’s clearly not in his right mind. It’s like writing in a diary.”
When police searched Reinscheid’s car, they found a red folder containing a newly signed will and also discovered a power of attorney document on his computer that gave his wife control over his finances and children, according to a police report obtained by the AP.
Reinscheid has been at UC Irvine for about a dozen years and rode his bike to work every day from his house on campus. His research included studying molecular pharmacology and psychiatric disorders, including studies of schizophrenia, stress, emotional behavior and sleep, according to the school’s website.
Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus, Greg Risling and Shaya Mohajer contributed to this story.