Creigh Deeds sues state for son’s wrongful death

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Gus Deeds frequently was on the road with his father, especially during Creigh Deeds’ run for governor in 2009. Photo: Hyunsoo Leo Kim/REUTERS/Newscom.com Gus Deeds frequently was on the road with his father, especially during Creigh Deeds’ run for governor in 2009. Photo: Hyunsoo Leo Kim/REUTERS/Newscom.com

The day after news broke about the $6 million wrongful death lawsuit he’d filed in his son’s 2013 death, Virginia state Senator Creigh Deeds refused to discuss the suit, but says the decision to file “was always a consideration. Since the beginning of the republic, the legal system has been in place to make changes and protect its citizens.”

And he seemed amused that news of the suit, which was filed November 19 in Bath County, was first broken by the Rockbridge Advocate and only made state news January 5. Anyone paying attention, suggested Deeds, would have known he had two years to file a civil suit.

November 19 was the second anniversary of the day Gus Deeds, 24, stabbed his father 13 times and killed himself after being turned away from the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board when its evaluator, Michael Gentry, said he couldn’t find a hospital bed for Gus and he no longer could be held on an emergency custody order.

Both the board and Gentry are named in the suit, as is the Commonwealth of Virginia, which the lawsuit contends was aware of serious shortcomings in its emergency services for people in mental health crises from a 2012 study following the Virginia Tech shootings.

According to the suit, Gus had “struggled with serious mental health issues” and had made previous suicide attempts. Deeds had promised his son he would not force him to be hospitalized again, but on November 18, 2013, because of Gus’ “recent and acute behavior,” his father determined he had to be hospitalized.

Deeds obtained an emergency custody order, and at 12:26pm Gus was taken to Bath County Hospital, the suit says. Gentry arrived at the hospital at 3:10pm to evaluate Gus and concluded he met the criteria for hospitalization.

Gentry claimed he contacted 10 facilities and none had beds, according to the suit, which alleges phone records show he only contacted seven and that two of the hospitals he said he contacted had beds that day.

An hour before the emergency custody order expired, Gus’ mother, Pamela Miller Mayhew, called Gentry and begged him not to release Gus because he was in “a very bad place” and would kill his father and himself, the suit says.

“Gentry responded that Gus was a responsible adult,” that he had missed his appointments with the community service board and that if he did kill Deeds, “Gus would be institutionalized for a very long time,” the suit alleges.

“Virginia’s mental health care system failed my son, Gus,” says Deeds in a statement. “I am committed that my son’s needless death shall not be in vain, and that no other Virginia family suffer this tragedy.”