A California college professor charged with arson and suspected of plotting a shooting rampage at a high school was, ironically, considered one of the world’s experts on reducing stress and anxiety, holding multiple patents for his pharmacological discoveries.

Rainer Reinscheid, 48, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California at Irvine, has been charged with starting five fires at the high school his son attended before the teen killed himself. Authorities say Reinscheid was also planning to kill teachers, administrators and students at the school and commit acts of sexual assault before burning the school to the ground and killing himself.

Apparently, Reinscheid blamed the school for punishing his son with trash pickup duty for a minor infraction. Shortly thereafter, his son committed suicide in a park.

Reinscheid was caught in the act of setting one fire at the school following a rash of similar arson attacks. He was also charged with resisting or obstructing a police officer and posted $50,000 bail. He was arrested last week before an investigation discovered what law enforcement authorities now believe was a mass murder plot.

The evidence against him includes emails on his cell phone describing his plans.

“He is accused of writing a graphic, detailed emails in which he laid out plans to purchase guns, murder unnamed students and named administrators, burn the school to the ground, commit acts of sexual assault and kill himself,” said Orange County Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz.

Following the discoveries of Reinscheid’s plot, he was rearrested. Investigators say it appeared Reinscheid had not been the same since his 14-year-old son killed himself in March.

“The emails by themselves do not support a criminal charge but they do support our argument that he should be denied bail because he’s dangerous,” said prosecutor Farrah Emami.

Reinscheid has worked at UC Irvine for about 12 years and was the recipient of multiple awards and grants for his work – mostly focusing on relieving stress, anxiety, depression and an effort at combating schizophrenia.

UC Irvine hailed Reinscheid’s work in this area in December 2010 in a press release titled: “UCI researchers find novel memory-enhancing mechanism in brain.”

“UC Irvine researchers have identified a novel mechanism in the brain that boosts memory,” said the announcement. “According to study leader Rainer Reinscheid, UCI associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, the discovery could provide important clues about how the brain stores memories and also lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive impairments.”

Reinscheid himself was quoted as saying: “Additionally, it may help us better understand post-traumatic stress disorder, which involves exaggerated memories of traumatic events.”

The study results were published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

The researchers concluded that “the discovery of this novel transmitter system that modulates sleep-wake cycles and anxiety might help to further our understanding of sleep disorders, such as insomnia, and pathological states of anxiety. It should be noted that excessive anxiety and disruption of sleep patterns are often observed in patients suffering from depression.”

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