Deeds serves mental health board with notice of intent to sue over son’s death

Gus and Creigh Deeds on the campaign trail in 2009. Photo: Hyunsoo Leo Kim/REUTERS/ Gus and Creigh Deeds on the campaign trail in 2009. Photo: Hyunsoo Leo Kim/REUTERS/

State Senator Creigh Deeds has cleared the way for a lawsuit against the regional agency that released his son Austin “Gus” Deeds after an emergency commitment last fall a day before Gus attacked his father and killed himself.

Deeds’ attorneys served notices of claim on the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board, as well as Bath and Rockbridge counties, Lynchburg, and Buena Vista, the localities where the agency operates. The legal move is required within six months of an incident that may give rise to a claim against a governmental organization.

“The most important thing we’re letting people know is that there has been no final decision yet as to whether or not Senator Deeds will file a lawsuit against anybody,” said Monica Mroz, Deeds’ attorney at LichtensteinFishwick, a Roanoke law firm. In a follow-up statement sent via e-mail, she said the notices “allow for a thoughtful and thorough review of this matter as well as the preservation of rights under Virginia law. Senator Deeds provided these notices as part of his continued quest to understand what happened to his son.”

Deeds had his 24-year-old son entered into emergency custody on November 18, but Gus’ custody order expired before evaluators were able to find a facility where he could be kept in temporary detention for another two days, and he was released. The next morning, he stabbed his father 13 times outside their Bath County home before killing himself.

An inspector general’s report that followed revealed Gus’ evaluation didn’t start until only about an hour remained in his extended four-hour custody order. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the notice of claim cites “a lack of (emergency custody order) protocols” in the commitment process, and that a suit may follow to “redress the negligent, reckless, and improper actions of the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board.”