Parents describe pain of losing teenage son found deceased on Jekyll Island

By Flynn Snyder

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 4:09 PM EDT|Updated: 16 hours ago

JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - The parents of a teen whose body was found near a Jekyll Island summer camp are remembering their son as a person everyone loved.

First responders found 16-year-old Connor Mathis’ body last Tuesday in the island’s surf after the boy went missing a day earlier.

For Carla and Kelly Mathis, their son’s visit to summer camp turned tragic.

“This has been the hardest week of my life. It’s a tragedy that we would never want anyone, any mother, any father, any parent to ever experience,” Carla Mathis said.

Their son was attending camp last week on Jekyll Island. His mother says he’d only been there one day when he was reported missing on Monday.

Connor’s disappearance caused a search effort spanning multiple agencies. The Camden County Sheriff’s Office eventually found Connor’s body on Tuesday in the island’s surf.

His mother saying investigators told her his death was an accidental drowning.

“They told us that they found him. He had drowned. Everything just went kind of foggy for me after that. He’s my first-born child so mothers by nature are protective and I just felt in that moment there was nothing I could do for him. It hurts,” Carla Mathis said.

The Mathis family says Connor had a high-functioning form of autism.

“If there was anything he felt that he could not do or that would be too much for him, he was always very transparent and honest with me and his father. He would say, ‘I don’t think I want to do this’ or ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ That’s why we were very excited about him wanting to go and sign up for a summer camp,” Carla Mathis said.

In the wake of their son’s death, an outpouring of support for the Mathis family. It’s help, like that, Connor’s father says they’ve relied on to cope.

“The hurt is just unexplainable. I think that the support we’ve been receiving from the community, from friends, from family has pretty much sustained us. Absolutely we are devastated at the cause of it but the attention we’ve received and things of that nature as far as the support, you couldn’t ask for anything better,” Kelly Mathis said.

Still, the pain of Connor’s death is palpable on his parent’s faces, but they say they wanted to come forward to talk about their son and remember him as a sports-loving teen whose smile lit up a room.

“If you knew Connor, you loved Connor. Every picture I’ve taken of him, you see that beautiful smile. And when I think about how hard it will be going forward, when I see a picture of his face, and I see that smile, it does something here and I feel that smile of his lets me know that things will be OK.”

In the midst of their grief, the family now wears shirts with a green heart symbolizing Connor’s favorite color. They’re now relying on support from friends, family and their faith to carry on.

WTOC reached out to Camp Jekyll, but they did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety said there are no new updates in the investigation and that they’re awaiting autopsy results which may take four weeks.

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