Official who investigated attack on senator quits

|
Local,Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A state investigator who examined the events leading to an attack on a Virginia state senator by his son has resigned, complaining that his superiors interfered with his work and made him tone down his report, according to a letter of resignation released Tuesday.

G. Douglas Bevelacqua, director of the Division of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services with the Office of the Inspector General, said his report has been subject to revisions to tone down his findings on the Nov. 19 knife attack on Sen. Creigh Deeds by 24-year-old Austin "Gus" Deeds at their rural homestead in Bath County.

Deeds survived with deep slashes on his face, but his son committed suicide after the assault. The violent encounter came 13 hours after the younger Deeds was released from emergency custody order because a psychiatric bed could not be found for him.

The investigation was one of several state responses that grew out of the attack on Deeds, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2009. The attack has also sparked legislation intended to address issues raised by the younger Deeds' inability to get treatment.

In his letter, dated March 1, Bevelacqua said proposed revisions to his report would diminish its value "as policy makers consider changes to the Commonwealth's emergency services response system."

"If I were responsible for publishing this report, it would have been issued weeks ago and it would have contained conclusions that were removed because they were considered speculative or too emotional," Bevelacqua wrote to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Specifically, Bevelacqua wrote that he wanted to include in his report Creigh Deeds' public statements that "the system failed that day."

"However, that statement was considered too emotional for this report — even though this family member was the only witness to all of the events on Nov. 18, 2013, and that, by any standard, his observation was correct," Bevelacqua wrote.

McAuliffe, who was traveling in southwest Virginia, said Tuesday he was not aware of the resignation. His office issued a statement saying he would review it.

"The governor is committed to reforming our mental health system so that it works to keep all Virginians healthy and safe," a spokesman wrote in an email.

Deeds, in Richmond for the General Assembly session, said he is disappointed that Bevelaqua is leaving.

"Mr. Bevelacqua was fair with me, was honest and compassionate," he told reporters. "It would be very disappointing if it turns out the report is sanitized somehow."

Inspector General Michael F.A. Morehart declined to comment on Bevelacqua's claims. "Unfortunately, I am prohibited from discussing personnel issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Bevelacqua does not specifically identify Morehart in the letter, instead referring to "leadership" at the Inspector General's Office.

Bevelacqua said he informed Deeds of his resignation on Friday.

"I regret this resignation more than I can put into words, but I feel that I can no longer be an authentic, independent voice of accountability for the citizens of Virginia on matters of behavioral health and developmental services, and that I must move on," Bevelacqua wrote.

Besides Bevelacqua's report, the Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response has been established to look into the Deeds' attack.

___

Associated Press Writer Larry O'Dell contributed to this report.

___

Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap.

View article comments Leave a comment