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Northeast Tarrant

Swim coach was away from pool when Southlake teen drowned, prosecutor says


Elise Cerami, 13, died silently June 20, 2016, while 30 other people were in the swimming pool where she drowned, according to the opening statement of a Tarrant County prosecutor.

Evidence will show that Cerami’s assistant swim coach, Tracey Anne Boyd, was not watching her, said Vincent Giardino, Tarrant County assistant district attorney.

Boyd, on trial on a charge of abandonment and endangering a child by criminal negligence, a state jail felony, sat at the defense table and betrayed no emotion as she listened to opening statements.

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Boyd was away from surveillance video for nearly 10 minutes, Giardino said. When Boyd returned to poolside she was carrying a cup of coffee and neglecting her duty to watch lanes seven and eight of the pool where Cerami was practicing with other students, the prosecutor said.

The indictment against Boyd alleges that she failed to “watch or observe Elise Cerami while [Cerami] was swimming” and failed to ensure that she was being supervised by someone else.

“Elise leaves the building without a pulse,” Giardino said. “We don’t know how long she was down there. Evidence will show that she {Boyd] returned 9 minutes and 31 seconds later.”

Giardino asked the jury to listen to all the evidence and then return a guilty verdict.

“Who are we going to protect, our coaches or our kids?” he asked.

Sherry Armstrong, one of Boyd’s defense attorneys, told the jury that her client was walking around the deck near the pool that morning and speaking with other coaches, and that was OK.

“You’ll see that this was a very poor investigation by law enforcement,” Armstrong said.

Elise’s father, David Cerami, testified that his daughter loved to swim and was in the gifted-and-talented program.

“She wanted to go to [Texas] A&M [University] and become an engineer, and then become a lawyer,” her father said.

Boyd was employed by the Carroll Independent School District at the time.

“Carroll ISD is not aware of any facts arising out of those circumstances that would support charges or an indictment,” the school district said in a statement after Boyd was indicted in June.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled Cerami’s death an accidental drowning. But it was unclear why she sank into the water after a routine warmup session about 6:45 a.m.

When her teammates realized she hadn’t surfaced, they pulled her out, and staff members administered CPR while awaiting paramedics.

Cerami was taken to Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine before being transferred to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, where she was pronounced dead.

This story includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

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