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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Musician stabs father, shoots self -- News Special Edition, Nov 20, 2013

NEWS SPECIAL EDITION... (updated Wed, Nov 20, at 6 pm Pacific)


Gus Deeds was a passionate old-time banjo player who wrote that his interests were "solitude, God and women... homesteading and survivalism, instrument-making, blacksmithing, herbal medicine, wine-making and 'worshipping Christ.'" Now he's dead, after trying to kill his father.

Police are calling it an attempted murder-suicide. Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, 55, that state's Democratic candidate for governor in 2009, was repeatedly stabbed by his 24-year-old musician son, Gus, during an altercation at the Deeds home before the son apparently shot himself.

Local WTVR-TV journalist Mark Holmberg, who knows Creigh Deeds personally, said, "He’s a music lover, and the kind of guy who made a point of saying something warm and positive when my own world was a little upside-down."

That's typical of the wonderful things people say about Creigh Deeds.

His son, Austin "Gus" Deeds, was a music major with "a strong academic record," according to the College of William & Mary. Gus had been enrolled at that esteemed Virginia institution since 2007, although not continuously. But he suddenly withdrew last month, the college said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

There were signs of trouble with Gus Deeds. Just before the tragedy, Gus was released from the hospital where he had undergone a mental evaluation. Initially, it was represented that doctors and his family had searched exhaustively for a residential treatment program that would admit him, but not a single available bed could be found anywhere in the region. That caused us to observe, "unfortunately, that's typical throughout the US. So Gus was released to his family."

By midday Wednesday, a different picture was emerging. Local hospitals denied they had been contacted about availabilty of space to admit Gus Deeds.Some suggest they had openings, if they had been asked.

Still, the point remains that America has not had an adequate network of mental health care since it was systematically dismantled during the Reagan administration So others in the media are citing what happened to renew the call for restoring a lost system.

Political colleagues of Sen. Deeds said they've heard of difficulties with his son but never imagined an outcome like this.

The same year his father ran for governor, Gus, then 20, was arrested for alcohol possession, according to the Virginian Pilot newspaperVirginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds remained in fair condition Tuesday night at the University of Virginia Medical Center. He suffered multiple stab wounds to the head and upper torso.

Virginia State Troopers and first responders attempted unsuccessfully to revive Gus Deeds at the scene. He died of a gunshot wound that police say was apparently self-inflicted.

Gus was a serious musician. He brought his banjo along to entertain when he accompanied his father on the campaign trail.

Deeds, a Democrat, lost badly to Republican Bob McDonnell in the Virginia governor's race four years ago. Barack Obama had carried Virginia in 2008, just a year earlier.

"The news from this morning is utterly heartbreaking," said Gov. Bob McDonnell of his onetime rival. McDonnell will soon leave the office. "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."

Creigh Deeds has been a Virginia state senator since 2001, representing Virginia's 25th District. He served in the House of Delegates for 10 years prior and ran unsuccessfully for attorney general of Virginia in 2005 before his run for governor in 2009.

There's plenty available on the well-liked politician father.

But what of the son at the center of the horrifying event? That's worth exploring, since many of us know (or are) musicians.

TV reporter Holmberg reported plenty about the young musician / music honor student:

"Gus Deeds was very passionate about music, particularly old-time music. He played the banjo left handed. That’s one of the few pictures of himself he posted [visible at ]. He’s also playing in one of his father’s campaign photos.

"He was into a wide variety of music, including rock oldies like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and Jim Morrison to country legends like Willie Nelson and Hank Williams, to pop and urban acts like Michael Jackson, Biggie Smalls and Tupac.

"He was into the campus group 'The Circle,' which provides opportunities for musicians and singers to jam, and the William & Mary Old-Timey Music Club and the Music of Brazil seminar.

"He wrote that his activities were homesteading and survivalism, instrument-making, blacksmithing, herbal medicine, wine-making and 'worshipping Christ.'

"His 2009 arrest for underage drinking was widely publicized during his father’s gubernatorial campaign, but apart from the wine-making reference, alcohol is absent from his Facebook site.

"Gus Deeds was also a counselor and instructor at summer camp in Rockbridge County called Nature Camp, the camp’s president of the board of directors told me.

"Nature Camp in a non-profit that brings fifth-graders through high-schoolers to the breathtaking George Washington Forest for fun and instruction about science and conservation. Gus worked there last summer.

"His favorite movies included 'Braveheart,' 'The Lord of The Rings' Trilogy, 'Dude,Where’s My Car,' 'Borat' and 'Bruno.'

"Gus was also into the Bath County Area Swap and Sell, Jack Mason’s Tavern, the Coal River Mountain Watch, Douthat State Park and the Presbyterian Campus Ministry at JMU and Beyond. He also liked video games like 'Morrowind' and 'Tribes Ascend.'

"His inspirational people: Chief Crazy Horse,  Oscar Wilde, French composer Hector Berlioz,  Errol Flynn, the Apostle Peter and Joan of Arc.

"Among his favorite books is 'Stealing Heaven,' the story of a coal-mining company’s takeover of a West Virginia town, and 'Spartina,' a novel about a New England man trying to find his way through his boat.

"Gus Deeds wrote that his interests were solitude, God and women.

"There are no mentions of the demons he faced.

"Gus wrote that he spoke Arabic and Spanish (one of his posts was in Spanish) and didn’t appear to have his father’s passion for politics. His political views: 'Too busy with love to care.'"

Reporter Joe St. George of local CBS-TV affiliate Channel 6 spoke with two people who knew Gus:

“Big personality,a sweet kid… a great sense of humor,” Diane Dudley said.

Max Katz, a teacher at William & Mary, said, “In class he was my favorite kind of student, he was ready to be challenged by the material and ready to challenge the material — ready to challenge me.”

Certainly the irony of who and how someone can be challenging can take a terrible turn.

We could look at the disgraceful inadequacy of a mental health care "system" that's no system at all, but a net with a lot of gaping holes. But we'll that topic to others.

It's striking that reading about Gus Deeds is so much like reading anyone's social media page.

We all know that artists are passionate people. And that is every bit as ambiguous a term as saying someone is challenging. Where is the line between having a unique outlook and being dangerous?

Those closest to someone in trouble may be the only ones capable of seeing danger signs, of mental illness; of impending suicide, or danger to others, or both. With the internet as close as your phone, you can always find some kind of intervention tools. Perhaps the availability of communication devices brings an implied obligation that we use them when we sense trouble.

Could fellow music students have prevented what Gus Deeds did? Could friends in the local old-time music community? We are not in a position to know.

But each of us, as members of our own arts and music scene, can open lines of communication for purposes other than fun and games. Our cyber connections enable us to ask each other what steps we can take to prevent tragedy among those we know. Will we?
More, including tonight's music scene, later today.
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The ACOUSTIC AMERICANA MUSIC GUIDE endeavors to bring you NEWS and views of interest to artists everywhere, more specifically to musicians and the creative community, and music makers and fans of acoustic and Folk-Americana music, both traditional and innovative. We provide a wealth of resources, including a HUGE catalog of acoustic-friendly venues, and schedules of performances in Southern California venues large and small. We cover workshops and other events for artists and folks in the music industry, and all kids o’ things in the world of acoustic and Americana and accessible classical music. From washtub bass to musical spoons to oboe to viola to banjo to squeezebox, from Djangostyle to new-fangled-old-time string band music, from sweet Cajun fiddle to pre-bluegrass Appalachian mountain music to proto blues.
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