MILLBORO, Va. — Gus Deeds, the son of Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, was a talented musician known for his stories and his smarts, someone who could carry on conversations ranging from music theory to theology.
He seemingly got along with everyone, but his mental health reportedly came into question the day before he stabbed his father in the chest and head at the family’s farm in western Virginia. He then killed himself with a rifle.
A state official said Wednesday an investigation was opened into Gus Deeds’ mental health treatment, while those who knew him were left wondering what happened.
“He was one of those people who could go and take a test and not have to study for it and he’d get a 100 on it,” said Casey Forbes, who went to elementary and high school with the younger Deeds. “It didn’t matter what class it was. He really didn’t have much of a challenge.”
Creigh (pronounced kree) Deeds, a one-time Democratic gubernatorial nominee, was in good condition at a hospital in Charlottesville. Police have talked with him, but have not revealed what he said or a motive for the attack.
People who live along the mountainous roads in Bath County, some 70 miles west of the hospital, were bewildered by the violent encounter between father and son. By most accounts, the pair had a close relationship.
Gus Deeds, 24, left college to help his father’s 2009 campaign for governor. His father talked then about the importance of family and how they shouldn’t be separated just because of a statewide campaign.
Gus Deeds studied music at the College of William and Mary off and on since 2007, but withdrew last month. The school didn’t say why he left, but said he had a strong academic record.
Brian Hulse, an associate professor of music theory and composition at the college, said his student played multiple instruments, including banjo and piano, and performed with the school’s Appalachian Music Ensemble, taking great pride in his heritage.
“He seemed to be really happy in the music department and that’s the only side of him I ever saw,” Hulse said. “He was extremely unique in the most positive sense.”
Media outlets reported an emergency custody order was issued for Gus Deeds on Monday, but they have not said why. He was reportedly taken to the Rockbridge Area Community Services center, which treats mental illness and substance abuse, but he was released because they couldn’t find a psychiatric bed for him. Several hospitals, however, said they had space.
G. Douglas Bevelaqua, the director of the inspector general program for behavioral health in Virginia, said his office had opened an investigation because of the conflicting reports. He would not say whether the investigation was based solely on media reports or on information obtained by his office. The Associated Press was unable to independently confirm the custody order.
“Suffice it to say, we had sufficient information to warrant opening an investigation,” Bevelaqua said.
The state police said the local sheriff’s office responded to a non-emergency call at the senator’s home Monday, but they did not indicate why.
The senator and his ex-wife, Pam, divorced shortly after the 2009 campaign. Gus Deeds was one of their four children. The senator remarried last year.
Shopkeepers and residents in Hot Springs said Gus Deeds, like many younger people in the county, had worked a season or two at The Homestead. The stately brick luxury resort dominates Hot Springs, rising like an ornate wedding cake from the town’s center, topped by a clock tower.
He was long-timer camper and also worked at Nature Camp in Rockbridge County.
“Gus was a fascinatingly entertaining storyteller, an astonishingly talented musician, a brilliant thinker, an inspiration to legions of campers and counselors, and a trusted and respected friend,” the camp said in a statement. “He taught himself how to play numerous instruments with uncanny ease. He could carry on intelligent conversations on topics ranging from music theory to theology.”
Bath County court records showed Gus Deeds was charged with underage alcohol possession in 2009, but the charge was later dismissed.