Editor’s note: This story includes descriptions of suicide. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Alachua County Crisis Center at 352-264-6789.
A father was suspected of killing his two young sons early Tuesday – including an 11-year-old who was regularly the batboy for the No. 10-ranked University of Florida baseball team – setting on fire his family’s waterfront vacation home in nearby Cross City then killing himself, authorities said.
The Dixie County Sheriff’s Office was still at the scene of the burned luxury home Tuesday along the shore of the Suwannee River in western Florida, spokeswoman Shannon Valentine said. She confirmed the deaths and said later Tuesday that the case had been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Paul Otto Reinhart, 46, of Gainesville had recently lost his job as president at Reinhart Medical LLC, a medical device sales company, and was in the early stages of a divorce from his wife, Mindee Prince Reinhart, 42, also of Gainesville, according to friends of the couple. Minde Reinhart was listed on corporation records as vice president for the company.
The children were Brody, 11, and Rex, 14, both avid youth baseball players. The family was friends with Florida Coach Kevin “Sully” O’Sullivan, and Brody was regularly the batboy at Florida home games, friends said. The University Athletic Association declined to immediately comment.
Back in Gainesville, about 50 miles east of the fire, investigators from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office were interviewing neighbors in the gated community around the family’s $900,000 home in west Gainesville. Spokeswoman Lt. Kaley Behl said Dixie County authorities had asked for assistance with what it described as a “murder-suicide joint investigation.”
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Jeremy Burns, said the agency would be involved in the investigation and any forensic work.
Deputies visited the family’s home in Gainesville shortly after 6 a.m. after an unspecified family member worried about cryptic posts that Paul Reinhart had published on his Facebook account and texts he had been sending about his family, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Deputies in Dixie County found Paul Reinhart’s van at the vacation home, which by then was already burning, the sheriff’s office said. Valentine said a neighbor reported the fire there at 7:14 a.m. She could not say how long it took to extinguish. The Dixie County fire chief, John Darian Brown, did not return a phone message or email asking for details.
Paul Reinhart posted personal photos of his wedding and family without any details to his Facebook account as recently as 5 a.m. Tuesday.
It wasn’t clear how Paul Reinhart or his sons died or exactly when the deaths occurred. In such cases, autopsies generally would be able to identify the causes of death and determine whether anyone died before or after the fire. The medical examiner’s office was working with sheriff’s authorities and state investigators to identify the bodies and learn details of what happened.
The Reinharts would have celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary later this month.
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org