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Virginia lawmaker Deeds' condition improves as authorities eye motive in stabbing attack

Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds' condition has been upgraded to good after he was stabbed yesterday inside his home, a hospital spokeswoman says, as authorities are trying to determine a motive in the attack.

Deeds was initially left in critical condition after an altercation with his son, 24-year-old Austin "Gus" Deeds. His son was found dead inside the Millboro home from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said. State Police said an autopsy on Gus Deeds' body was planned Wednesday.

The American Hospital Association defines a patient in good condition as having stable vital signs and being conscious and comfortable.

Gus Deeds was one of the senator's four adult children, and had just received a mental health evaluation a day before, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

"We're leaning toward it being an attempted murder/suicide," Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman from the Virginia State Police said at a press conference late Tuesday. Police have been able to communicate with Deeds, who is listed in fair condition after being stabbed multiple times in the head and chest, but did not discuss what was said.

Gus Deeds, a high school valedictorian, studied music at the College of William and Mary, where he had been enrolled off and on since 2007, but withdrew last month, school spokesman Brian Whitson said. The college said the younger Deeds had a strong academic record. It did not say why he left.

Cory Jessee, who attended high school and college with Gus Deeds, described him as a talented bluegrass musician.

“He was a brainy kid who was really intelligent and you could tell that he kind of stood out,” Jessee told the Roanoke Times.

During Deeds' bid for governor in 2009, Gus Deeds took off a semester to join his dad on the campaign trail.

"He needs me and I need him," Deeds told a reporter in the fall of that year, about campaigning with Gus.

"I've got to go through this campaign process but that doesn't mean I've got to be completely separated from my family the whole time," he said.

Virginia House Delegate David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, whose district overlaps with Deeds', said in a statement: "Sen. Deeds was very close to his son, Gus, and has taken herculean efforts to help him over the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with Creigh and the family at this difficult time."

An official told the Richmond Times-Dispatch Tuesday that a day before the stabbing, Gus Deeds underwent a mental health evaluation at Bath Community Hospital, which was performed under an emergency custody order.

Dennis Cropper, executive director of the Rockbridge County Community Services Board, told the newspaper that Gus Deeds was released later that day because no available psychiatric beds could be found in western Virginia.

At the Millboro Mercantile and Grocery Store, several miles from the Deeds home, a neighbor said while he had heard Gus had struggled with mental health issues, he couldn't fathom what would have caused the violent encounter.

"They thought the world of each other," Joe Wood, 64, said. "That's what's surprising about this whole deal.""

On Tuesday morning, however, the two got into some sort of altercation that resulted in the stabbing at Deeds' home in rural western Virginia. Police recovered a gun at the home, but Geller would not provide details about it. She also would not say what the senator was stabbed with.

The senator was spotted outside after the stabbing by a cousin who was driving past, The Roanoke Times reported.

Deeds and his ex-wife, Pam, divorced shortly after the 2009 campaign. Deeds remarried last year.

Deeds made his first bid for statewide office in 2005 when he ran for attorney general and lost to Republican Bob McDonnell by less than 400 votes. Four years later, he defeated Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran in the Democratic primary, then squared off with McDonnell again in the general election. This time he lost badly.

He spent most of his childhood in Bath County, where his family settled in the 1740s. Deeds, a former Bath County prosecutor, was elected to the House of Delegates in 1991 and to the state Senate in 2001.

McDonnell said in a statement Tuesday that the news of the stabbing was "utterly heartbreaking."

"Creigh Deeds is an exceptional and committed public servant who has always done what he believes is best for Virginia and who gives his all to public service," McDonnell said.

McAuliffe, now governor-elect, called it a sad day for Virginia.

"We join people across the Commonwealth and country in wishing him a full recovery," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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