Accused Arsonist Professor Couldn't Handle Son's Suicide, Ex-Wife Says

PHOTO: Rainer Reinscheid, 48, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, was arrested July 24, 2012.
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A University of California professor is currently jailed without bail on charges that he allegedly set multiple fires and plotted to kill students and administrators at the school that disciplined his son before the teen committed suicide.

Rainer Reinscheid's ex-wife and the mother of his late son said that Reinscheid was a "good guy" who did not know how to cope with the sense of "failure" he felt after his son's suicide.

"You know, this guy has been so successful with everything, everything...until his son took his life and he didn't know how to deal with it," Doerte Reinscheid told ABCNews.com. "He's completely going crazy."

She said that her former husband had never displayed violent tendencies. Doerte Reinscheid said she had not seen Rainer Reinscheid recently, but had exchanged emails with him earlier this year and said she did not want to speak to him anymore due to disagreements they had over their son.

Rainer Reinscheid, 48, is an associate professor of pharmaceuticals at UC Irvine. He is accused of committing five arsons and one attempted arson between July 4 and July 24, 2012, according to the Orange County District Attorney.

The arsons occurred on the campus of University High School where his son was a student, at a school administrator's home and in Mason Park Preserve where his son committed suicide.

Reinscheid allegedly used newspaper, fireplace logs, brush and vegetation, a book and a plastic porch chair to build the fires, according to authorities.

Reinscheid's 14-year-old son was disciplined in school in March 2012 and committed suicide in the park later that month, according to his mother.

"He had so much trouble in school and they couldn't really work it out," Doerte Reinscheid, 45, said.

The teen was disciplined for stealing something small from the student store and punished with trash pick-up duties at lunch, according Ian Hanigan, spokesman for the Irvine Unified School District.

Hanigan told ABCNews.com that the teen's offense was "relatively minor" and "did not rise to level of suspension or expulsion."

On July 24, Reinscheid was caught attempting to start a fire in Mason Park Preserve and was arrested at the scene. He did not comply with officers' orders to stop and attempted to resist arrest, according to the DA. He was arrested and released after posting a $50,000 bail.

During the investigation three days later, police discovered alarming emails on Reinscheid's cell phone.

"In those emails, he's accused of laying out detailed plans for purchasing guns, committing acts of murder against school students and administrators, burning down the school building--burning it to the ground--and killing himself," prosecutor Andrew Katz told ABC News' Los Angeles station KABC.

Following the discovery of the emails, Reinscheid was re-arrested and was denied bail on Tuesday.

"The OCDA [Orange County District Attorney] believes Reinscheid poses a serious threat to the community if released from custody" due to the "dangerous, violent nature of his private emails," the DA wrote in a news release.

Authorities believe Reinscheid acted alone in his alleged crimes and plots. The DA said that Reinscheid sent the emails detailing his plan to his wife and to himself in April 2012.

When asked if his wife could face charges for not reporting the emails, Orange County DA spokeswoman Farrah Emami told ABCNews.com, "At this point, we don't have any information that she or anyone else was involved in this plan. All of the evidence is that he was acting alone, he committed the arsons alone and devised the plan alone."

California Professor Allegedly Plotted to Kill Students and Teachers

"We used those emails to argue in court that he should be held without bail," she said. "The emails on their own, just by themselves, don't amount to a crime that can be charged. They're just very alarming in light of the fact that he's setting these fires, clearly acting out on some of his dangerous inclinations and we were concerned that he would have followed through on these plans as well."

Emami said that authorities do not believe Reinscheid was in possession of any weapons, but that he wrote in the emails that "he intended to obtain them." She said he did not specify a date or timeline for the attacks.

Doerte Reinscheid said she has been shocked to see the news about her ex-husband. The German couple came to the U.S. in 1999 and divorced in 2003. They were married for six years.

"I've known him for so long and he's been so successful," she said incredulously. "It's crazy. It's too crazy. He's going nuts."

Reinscheid has been an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UC Irvine for 12 years, according to UC Irvine spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon.

Lawhon told ABCNews.com that Reinscheid is "still employed," but could not comment on whether an internal investigation was occurring, citing personnel confidentiality issues.

The university sent out an internal email when Reinscheid was arrested.

"The university takes safety seriously and is cooperating fully with authorities regarding this matter," the message said. "Our thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic chain of events. 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."

On Tuesday, Reinscheid was charged with five felony counts of arson, one felony count of attempted arson and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of nearly 13 years.

Reinscheid's attorney Ron Cordova did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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