State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, gestures during debate on the Senate rules at the start of the 2012 session of the Virginia Senate at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012.
Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds is in fair condition after being stabbed at his home this morning, and his son Gus is dead from a gunshot wound. Deeds is being treated at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
Virginia State Police responded to a 911 call at 7:25 a.m. on Tuesday, according to Corinne Geller, Virginia State Police spokeswoman. She said there was an altercation between Deeds and his 24-year-old son, Gus. The son died at the scene from a single gunshot wound.
Senator Deeds and his son had an altercation at the Deeds residence. Deeds was stabbed multiple times about the head and upper torso. Deeds was able to leave the scene on foot and as he was coming down the hill or his residence, towards Route 42, he encountered a cousin who lives nearby," said Geller.
"Senator Deeds was then transported by ambulance to a nearby relative's farm, where Carillion Lifeguard 12, which is out of Rockbridge County, was able to land and transport the injured senator to the University of Virginia Medical Center," she added.
As of Tuesday afternoon Deeds' condition was upgraded from critical to fair.
The investigation is ongoing, said Geller, but added that it is being treated as an attempted murder and suicide. There are no other suspects and no one else was in the house at the time. Police are investigating the motive and the circumstances that led to the altercation.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday afternoon that Gus Deeds had been released Monday after a mental health evaluation, which was ordered by a court. He was reportedly not held because there were no beds available.
Mira Signer, who heads the Virginia office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, was not surprised by the revelation.
"Mental health funding in Virginia has really been on a roller coaster. After the Virginia Tech tragedy happened, the legislature swiftly moved to allocate a little more than $40 million in new funding, but then when the recession hit, a lot of that funding was taken away in budget cuts," she says.
She says better funding of community alternatives could free up beds at psychiatric facilities for people who urgently need in-patient care. "You know they shouldn't have to wait one day, two days, three days. You know we don't ask people who are having a heart attack to come back in two days. That's unheard of."
Signer stresses that most people with mental illness are not violent, and she hopes the tragedy surrounding the Deeds family will lead the legislature to assess the need for more funding and take action.
Deeds, 55, has served as both a state senator and a state delegate, and in 2009 ran for governor. In his 2005 run for attorney general — when McDonnell defeated him by just over 300 votes — Deeds was known for humility and a plain-spoken style, which he discussed with WAMU reporter Jonathan Wilson.
"Maybe I appear unvarnished on the stump. I don't — I'm not going to be the judge of that. But I am what I am and I'm alright that way," he said.
Gus Deeds was one of Creigh Deeds' four children from his first wife, and had recently withdrawn from the College of William and Mary, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Politicians and elected officials from across Virginia's political spectrum expressed shock with the news of his stabbing, with Gov. Bob McDonnell calling the events of Tuesday morning "heartbreaking."
"In this tough and sad time, our thoughts and prayers are with the Deeds family. The news from this morning is utterly heartbreaking. Creigh Deeds is an exceptional and committed public servant who has always done what he believes is best for Virginia and who gives his all to public service. He cares deeply about Virginia, and the people of Virginia care deeply for him," he said in a statement.
"I urge all Virginians today to join me in praying for a full and complete recovery for Creigh and for many more years of his public service to the Commonwealth. At this moment, our state unites in prayer for Creigh Deeds and his family."
Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe also spoke out. "This is a truly sad day for Virginia and for the many people who know Creigh as the fine public servant and friend he is," he said in a statement.