CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat who rose to be the gubernatorial nominee in 2009 despite his reserved demeanor and humble farmland roots, was stabbed early Tuesday, apparently by his son, police said.

Gus Deeds, 24, was found at his father’s house in rural western Virginia, dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

Authorities were still piecing together a motive and the circumstances that led up to the stabbing, but “we’re leaning towards it being an attempted murder/suicide,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said at an afternoon news conference. She said that finding wasn’t yet definitive.

Creigh Deeds, 55, and his son were the only people at the home Tuesday morning. Police were not looking for a suspect.

Deeds was able to walk about 75 yards away from his home in Millboro, despite stab wounds in his head and chest, police said. He was in fair condition at a hospital.

Police recovered a gun at the home, but Geller would not provide details about it. She also wouldn’t say what the senator was stabbed with.

She said police have been able to talk with the senator, but wouldn’t reveal what he has said.

Deeds made his first bid for statewide office in 2005 when he ran for attorney general and narrowly lost to Bob McDonnell in the general election. Four years later, McDonnell beat Deeds again — this time in the race for governor — though it was by a much wider margin.

Gus Deeds is one of the senator’s four adult children. He was studying 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.

McDonnell said in a statement the news was “utterly heartbreaking.”