Calif. prof. in arson case researched guns on Web

Rainer Reinscheid, 48, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, is pictured in a booking photo.
AP Photo/Orange County District Attorney's Office

(AP) NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - A university professor who wrote emails outlining a graphic plan to attack a California high school had been searching for information online about guns and fertilizer used in bombs in the months before he was arrested on arson charges, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

University of California, Irvine pharmaceutical sciences professor Rainer Reinscheid conducted as many as 60 such Internet searches on his home computer since March, after his teenage son committed suicide, Orange County deputy district attorney Andrew Katz told reporters after a brief hearing in the case.

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The searches raised concerns by authorities that Reinscheid might follow through on plans laid out in the emails to attack the high school where his son had been disciplined before his death. Reinscheid wrote that he would shoot at least 200 students and administrators, commit sexual assaults and burn down the school before killing himself, Katz said.

Prosecutors have not charged the 48-year-old professor with making threats contained in the emails because the messages were private communications and were not sent to alleged targets, Katz said. Still, prosecutors have had him held without bail because of the messages.

"The additional searches on the computer ... strengthens the idea that he is following through on the threats that he made in the emails that were previously discovered, and that those threats should be taken seriously," Katz told reporters after the brief appearance by Reinscheid in Superior Court in Newport Beach.

An amended complaint filed Wednesday charged Reinscheid with eight counts of arson and one count of attempted arson involving a series of small fires at University High School in Irvine, the park where his 14-year-old son hanged himself, and the home of a school administrator who had disciplined the boy for allegedly stealing from the school store.

Reinscheid — who squinted at the audience Wednesday from inside a courtroom holding cage — is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 15. A message left for his attorney, Ronald Cordova, was not immediately returned.

Reinscheid, a German citizen, was arrested at his home in Irvine on July 24. When police searched his home and cell phone, they found email messages addressed to himself and his wife describing a plan to buy a dozen machine guns and attack the school that he blamed for the death of his son, Claas Stubbe.

An email message sent by The Associated Press to Reinscheid's wife Wendy was not immediately returned. She obtained a temporary restraining order against Reinscheid in 2010 after he allegedly pushed her against a wall and grabbed her neck to choke her, family court records show. The order expired when she failed to appear in court.

His previous wife Doerte Stubbe — the mother of Claas — filed papers during divorce proceedings saying she called police after Reinscheid pushed her and put his hand around her neck in 2003. She told police she didn't need their help when they arrived because she was afraid to have him arrested, according to papers filed in Orange County's family court.

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.

He had requested a leave of absence from UCI, according to a police report.