However, in the last 24 hours, the Sentinel has withdrawn its original story, reporting that the facts from the touching tale cannnot be verified.
Editor Jack McElroy explained in a letter on the site that an investigation to find additional information and perform basic fact checking had "proven unsuccessful".
Although facts about his background have checked out, 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.
Therefore, because the story does not meet the newspaper’s standards of verification, we are no longer standing by the veracity of Schmitt-Matzen’s account.
Investigating the story, Snopessaid that hospitals in the area were unable to confirm if Schmitt-Matzen's visit had taken place. Meanwhile CNN reportedly also contacted major hospitals in the Knoxville area and none could confirm his account.
The coroner's office was unable to provide information without a name. A search of obituaries in Tennessee newspapers from the beginning of 2016 for 5-year-old boys did not yield conclusive proof confirming or refuting the account.
In this dark age of 'fake news' the vast majority of people on social media seem unsurprised that the story may have been fake.
However, others have been quick to point out that the media's Christmas fact checking puts their fact checking of other stories to shame...
Story about boy dying in Santa's arms fact checked more rigorously than anything in Brexit or the US election https://t.co/iUaUBM5SrQ