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California professor arrested on arson charges

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:57 AM EDT, Wed August 1, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Professor accused of setting fires at the high school his son attended
  • The boy killed himself in March
  • The father is being held without bail

Santa Ana, California (CNN) -- A 48-year-old professor accused of setting fires at the Southern California high school that his son attended prior to the boy's suicide was also planning to kill students and administrators at the school, authorities said Tuesday.

Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, is being held without bail in the Orange County Jail until August 8, when he is to be arraigned, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Reinscheid is charged with two felony counts of arson of another's property, two felony counts of arson of a structure, one felony count of arson of an inhabited residence, one felony count of attempted arson and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer, the prosecutor's office said in a news release.

If convicted he faces up to 12 years and eight months in state prison.

His 14-year-old son, who attended University High School in Irvine, was disciplined last March at the school, the news release said.

"Sometime subsequent to this, the defendant's son committed suicide in Mason Park Preserve in Irvine," according to the release.

Reinscheid is accused of committing five arsons and one attempted arson between July 4 and July 24 "by lighting various objects on fire including newspapers, fireplace logs, brush and vegetation, a book, and a plastic porch chair."

The arsons were committed on the campus of University High School, in the park where his son killed himself and at a school administrator's home, authorities said.

Reinscheid was initially taken into custody early on July 24, when Irvine Police Department officers saw him trying to set a fire in the park, according to the release. "When contacted by officers, Reinscheid is accused of refusing to comply with their orders to stop and attempting to resist arrest," it adds. He posted $50,000 bail and was released that day.

Three days later, detectives checking his cell phone as part of the investigation discovered e-mails written in April to his wife and to himself that described "his plan to burn down University High School, commit sexual assaults, purchase firearms and murder school officials and students, and then kill himself," the release said.

He was rearrested that night.

Reinscheid is the sole defendant and suspect in the case, the news release said.

His biography on the university's website says he is an associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Health Sciences with a joint appointment in pharmacology and molecular biology and biochemistry.

In a letter to the campus community the university said, "As you can imagine with any personnel or legal matter, we cannot provide extensive information. We can assure you, however, that our campus will continue to do everything possible to foster a safe environment for our faculty, students and staff."

CNN was not able to determine who was representing Reinscheid.

CNN's Chuck Conder contributed to this report.

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