Scars visible on Sen. Deeds face as he opens up about attack

Posted at 1:36 PM, Jan 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-26 17:11:39-05

(WTVR) -- State senator and former gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds says Virginia’s mental health system failed his son, Gus.

In his first television interview since the senator was attacked in November by his adult son, who then took his own life. Deeds opens up about the the traumatic experience that could mean big changes in how the state treats the mentally ill.

The deep scars are visible on Senator Deeds face, but you can also hear the pain in a father's voice, one who now lives with the feeling that he couldn't get his son the help he needed.

After Gus Deeds' 21st birthday, his father says his son became delusional. The young man who was on the dean's list and played the banjo became increasingly erratic and was diagnosed as bi-polar.

In November, Deeds tried to find his son an open bed in a psychiatric hospital, but a state law designed to protect patients only kept the court order to have him committed good for six hours.

Deeds opened up to CBS News anchor Scott Pelley about what happened next.

“I didn't know what was gonna happen. But, the next mornin', you know, I felt like there'd be a confrontation but I didn't I had no reason to think there'd be violence. And-- but-- but, you know, I-- I-- I got ready for work and i went out to the barn to feed the horses and Gus was comin' across the yard and he was-- I said, "hey, bud, how'd you sleep?" he said, "fine." I turned my back and, you know-- I turned my back. Had this feed thing in my hands, and-- and he was-- just on me.

“He attacked you?” Pelley asked.

“Twi-- he-- he-- he got me twice, you know, stabbed me twice. "

Senator Deeds was able to walk down the road in front of his home in Bath County where a neighbor found him and called 911. Moments later, Gus shot himself.

Deeds is promising to work the rest of his life in improving mental health care options for not only Virginia, but across the country.

"I really don't want Gus to be defined by his illness. I don't want Gus to be defined by what happened on the 19th. Gus was-- was a great kid. He was, he was perfect son. It's clear the system failed. It's clear that it failed Gus. It killed Gus."

Watch "60 Minutes" Sunday at 7 p.m. for Scott Pelley's full report.