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Newspaper no longer stands by story about boy dying in the arms of a Santa Claus actor

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UPDATE Dec. 16:

The Knoxville News Sentinel, the newspaper that originally published the story about Santa Claus actor Eric Schmitt-Matzen, no longer stands by its own reporting:

"His story of bringing a gift to a dying child remains unverified. The News Sentinel cannot establish that Schmitt-Matzen’s account is inaccurate, but more importantly, ongoing reporting cannot establish that it is accurate... We are no longer standing by the veracity of Schmitt-Matzen’s account."

"Santa, can you help me?"

Those were the last words of a dying 5-year-old boy who asked to see Santa Claus. Sixty-year-old Eric Schmitt-Matzen, of Knoxville, Tennessee, helped make the terminally ill boy's wish come true before he died in his arms, reports Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Schmitt-Matzen was called into the local hospital to visit the young boy in the Intensive Care Unit.

He walked into the hospital room with a toy gift and sat down on his bed.

Here is the full exchange:

"They say I’m gonna die,’ he told me. ‘How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?’"
"I said, ‘Can you do me a big favor?’
"He said, ‘Sure!’
"When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in."
"He said, ‘They will?’
"I said, ‘Sure!’
"He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’ "I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there."


'I cried all the way home'

Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News Sentinel he was ready to hang up his suit after what happened at the hospital.

"I’m just not cut out for this," he said.

But he mustered the strength to work one more show.

"When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play.

"For them and for me."

His Facebook page is flooded with likes and the tweets about the story have been taking off.

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For more news, check out this evening's Circa 60. 

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