Whatever happened, it was an awful tragedy: a state senator repeatedly stabbed in the head and torso; his 24-year-old son fatally wounded by a gunshot.
That’s the scene Virginia State Police and Bath County, Virginia, sheriff’s deputies encountered when they rushed to state Sen. Creigh Deeds‘ home in response to a 911 call Tuesday morning.
Tuesday afternoon, investigators reported the evidence collected so far indicates that Deeds was stabbed during a fight with his son, Austin “Gus” Deeds, who died of a gunshot wound despite state troopers’ attempts to revive him.
“Based on the evidence we have, we are looking at this as an attempted murder and suicide,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told reporters. No one else was in the house at the time of the altercation, and investigators are not seeking any other suspects, Geller said.
Deeds was airlifted to University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, where his condition was upgraded from critical to fair Tuesday afternoon, spokeswoman Angela Taylor said.
Geller said Deeds walked out of the house after being stabbed and was found walking along the road by a cousin who lived nearby. The senator was able to talk with investigators both before he was airlifted to the hospital and afterward, she said.
Deeds, 55, is well known in Virginia political circles. A Democrat, he ran for attorney general in 2005 and for governor in 2009, both times against Republican Bob McDonnell, who is now Virginia’s governor.
His son withdrew from The College of William & Mary last month after being enrolled off-and-on since 2007, according to a statement from the school. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday that Gus Deeds had been given a mental health evaluation under an emergency custody order Monday, but was released because no psychiatric bed could be located across a wide area of western Virginia, Dennis Cropper, executive director of the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board, told the newspaper.
Geller said she was unable to comment on that report, citing medical privacy laws.
McDonnell issued a statement calling Tuesday’s events “heartbreaking.”
“In this tough and sad time, our thoughts and prayers are with the Deeds family. The news from this morning is utterly heartbreaking,” he said. “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.”
On Twitter, Sen. Mark Warner called the report “stunning news.”
“I am praying for @CreighDeeds and his family at this very, very difficult time,” he tweeted.