Criminal Justice

Apparent suicide of lawmaker's son after stabbing dad is likely to revive mental-health debate


A Virginia state lawmaker is continuing to recover after suffering stab wounds Tuesday in what law enforcement authorities have described as an attack at his home by an adult son who then shot himself to death.

The condition of Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, who was hospitalized and had surgery after the Tuesday-morning incident, was upgraded to good as state police continue to investigate. However, it appears that initial claims by officials that the son, Austin “Gus” Deeds, 24, was at home because no area hospital had a bed for him after a Monday emergency psychiatric evaluation were incorrect, the Washington Post (reg. req.) reports.

At least three hospitals within driving distance had psychiatric beds available, but were not contacted about Deeds, the newspaper says. After the psychiatric evaluation, a magistrate judge Monday issued an emergency custody order for Austin Deeds, which allows a patient to be held for up to six hours by mental health authorities. It isn’t clear whether a temporary detention order, providing for the person to be held up to 72 hours longer, was also issued and an available bed is a prerequisite for that order.

The state spent millions upgrading its mental health services after the April 16, 2007 shooting massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in which a student gunman killed 33 people, including himself, and wounded 17 others.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Va. Tech Gunman Never Treated Despite Court Order, Mental Health Records Show”

ABAJournal.com: “Top state court says Virginia Tech had no duty to warn students of gunman, nixes jury award”

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