Creigh (pronounced kree) Deeds, a socially conservative Democrat, rose to be gubernatorial nominee in 2009 despite his reserved demeanor and humble farmland roots. He and his son were the only ones at his house on a farm in Millboro when the stabbing took place.
Police recovered a gun at the home, but have not provided details about it. They also have not said what the senator was stabbed with.
State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said police have been able to talk with the senator, but she would not reveal what he has said.
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.
During that race, Deeds' style was somewhat unorthodox. He would listen intently to people and their worries, but rarely did he engage in lengthy conversations on the campaign trail, seemingly almost reluctant to impose on people's time. He said then he didn't think Virginia voters could be won by style points, drawing a contrast to McDonnell.
Gus Deeds is one of the senator's four adult children. He 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 he had a strong academic record. It did not say why he left.
During Deeds' bid for governor, his son 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 2009, 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.
Del. 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."
At the Millboro Mercantile and Grocery Store, several miles from the Deeds home in remote, mountainous Bath County, a neighbor said he had a high regard for father and son.
"A fine neighbor. You couldn't ask for a better neighbor," said Joe Wood, 64, who said he had known Creigh Deeds since the late 1970s. "If something happened, he was right there."
Wood mentioned Gus' campaigning with his father during his unsuccessful run for governor, and he said the younger Deeds and his sisters came to his house often through the years.
Wood 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," Wood said. "That's what's surprising about this whole deal."