Virginia politician sues state over stabbing, son's suicide

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2016 4:37 PM

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - A Virginia state senator whose mentally ill son stabbed him 13 times and then committed suicide has filed a $6 million lawsuit against the state and a community services board.

Senator R. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat from rural Bath County and a 2009 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, filed the lawsuit in mid-November but it did not come to light until it was reported by local media.

The lawsuit, brought in Bath County Circuit Court, seeks $5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages in connection with the suicide, in November 2013.

Among other things, Deeds charges that his son, Austin "Gus" Deeds, was improperly denied treatment.

"I am committed that my son's needless death shall not be in vain, and that no other Virginia family suffer this tragedy," Deeds said in a statement released by his attorneys and reported by media.

Deeds became an advocate for mental health reform and introduced legislation to make changes in Virginia’s mental health system.

The legislation, signed into law in 2014, established a framework to help ensure that psychiatric beds are made available for those who meet standards for temporary detention.

In the lawsuit, Deeds says the mental health worker who evaluated his son and the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board in Lexington, Virginia, failed in their duties by releasing the younger Deeds from a hospital emergency room when they could not find a psychiatric bed for him.

Deeds says that his son’s mother, Pamela Miller Mayhew, warned the healthcare worker of the potential for violent behavior.

The lawsuit contends that the state was negligent in not following the recommendations of a 2012 Office of Inspector General’s report to provide more emergency services to those in mental health crises.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)