Seven-year-old dies unexpectedly following brief illness

McCORDSVILLE — The last days of school are always bittersweet. There are accomplishments to be celebrated and memories to be made. There are always goodbyes.

But this year at Mt. Comfort Elementary, those partings are a bit more sorrowful. As hundreds of students ran around playing games on the school grounds Tuesday, laughing and smiling, there was a face missing; one voice that would have made all the others stronger.

Seven-year-old Matthew Clegg, a Mt. Comfort Elementary School second-grader, died unexpectedly Sunday morning at Community North Hospital in Indianapolis after he was found unconscious and not breathing in the bathroom of the family’s home.

An autopsy proved Matthew died of natural causes, police said Tuesday. Coroners found a tear in the boy’s colon, called peritonitis, that let toxins from his intestines leak into his abdomen — a medical issue that is nearly incurable, police said.

There is no indication the boy’s death was the result of neglect or foul play, said Hancock County Sheriff’s Detective Capt. Jeff Rasche. Doctors told police they don’t know what causes such a tear to occur.

“It’s a tragic case,” Rasche said. “We just don’t know what happened.”

Matthew had been experiencing flu-like symptoms throughout the weekend and woke up Sunday morning weak and complaining of stomach pain, family members said.

The boy’s father, David Clegg, carried him to the bathroom; but by the end of the short trip down the hall, Matthew was unresponsive, said Michelle Casady, Matthew’s aunt.

David Clegg started CPR while his wife, Amanda, called 911. Paramedics from the Buck Creek Township Fire Department did what they could to try to save Matthew, rushing him to Community North Hospital in Indianapolis, Rasche said.

Doctors pronounced Matthew dead a short while later, telling his family they had no answers for what might have killed the boy, Casady said.

“Everything happened so fast,” Casady said. “We’re devastated.”

Matthew had no alarming medical issues but underwent a colonoscopy in the last few years because of stomach issues, Casady said. For the most part, however, he was healthy, happy little boy, she said.

Matthew had spent Saturday morning with his family at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and came home feeling ill, Casady said. His complaints of stomach pain continued through the afternoon and evening, and he’d had bouts of vomiting, she said.

Her sister and brother-in-law called Matthew’s doctor, who advised they shouldn’t panic but monitor Matthew and make sure he drank enough fluids to stay hydrated, Casady said.

They did as they were told, but Matthew died hours later.

Counselors were made available to students and staff at Mt. Comfort Elementary School on Monday, Principal Heather Whitaker said. And as they wrapped up classes and had their annual field day Tuesday, there was still a somberness in the air. Whitaker said it was tough to get through the day without thinking about the quiet little boy who loved to give hugs and worked hard to get straight A’s.

Tuesday, Matthew’s family stopped by Mt. Comfort Elementary School to talk with his teachers, collect some of his things and listen as other parents offered any help they might need — “even if it’s just a hug right now,” Whitaker said.

That outpouring of support from their friends and neighbors is keeping Matthew’s family going, Casady said. They’ve been overwhelmed with the support they’ve received, she said.

“It’s breathtaking how wonderful the community has been,” Casady said. “(The Cleggs) don’t know how they’d be getting through it without the love and support.”

How you can help

Matthew Clegg, 7, of McCordsville, died unexpectedly Sunday from an apparent medical condition. His family has created an online fundraiser to help cover medical and funeral costs. For more information, visit www.gofundme.com/25fcvjg4

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.