'Still have nightmares': Tyree Bowie speaks out 1 year after Mullinix murder acquittal

Tyree Bowie spent four years in York County Prison awaiting trial on charges that he murdered 2-year-old Dante Mullinix. In December 2022, a York County Jury found Bowie not guilty of those charges. Now, one year after his acquittal and as he prepares to sue over alleged malicious prosecution, he sat down with the York Daily Record to tell his story and how the case affected his life.

What happened in 2018?

On Sept. 6, 2018, York City Police were made aware of an unresponsive child at York Hospital.

That child was 2-year-old Dante Mullinix.

He was brought to the hospital earlier that evening by 39-year-old Tyree Bowie, who was taking care of Dante and his mother, Leah Mullinix, 21, since first meeting them 18 days earlier.

That night, Bowie said, he brought them to the house where he was staying. They ate dinner and watched a movie together. Bowie said Leah Mullinix began to develop a migraine and he rushed her to the hospital.

Dante Mullinix
Dante Mullinix

When she was dropped off, Mullinix left Dante in Bowie’s care for the first time.

Less than two hours later, Bowie arrived at York Hospital with Dante’s near-lifeless body in his arms.

After dropping Mullinix off, Bowie, along with Dante, who was in the back seat, stopped at a Rutter's in Manchester Township before heading home. It was after 8:30 p.m. when surveillance video at the gas station showed the last time Dante was out in public.

They returned to Bowie’s place, where he realized he couldn’t find his key and was locked out of the house. So, he texted Mullinix that they were home, and the two of them hung out in the car.

Tyree Bowie describes the harrowing ride to the hospital with Dante Mullinix, after the 2-year old stopped breathing and how the nightmare continued with a four years in jail.
Tyree Bowie describes the harrowing ride to the hospital with Dante Mullinix, after the 2-year old stopped breathing and how the nightmare continued with a four years in jail.

During his 2018 testimony, Bowie said video called and messaged Mullinix, explaining that Dante fell in the car and, while getting out, slammed his chin on the door frame. Earlier that evening, Bowie observed Dante’s eyes rolled into the back of his head, asking Mullinix if Dante was OK.

He told her Dante was not acting "normal" the whole day, and he decided to take Dante back to the hospital. On the way there, he gave the toddler a Teddy Graham cookie.

“I’m driving and all of a sudden I hear a thump – I look back and I thought he just fell asleep,” Bowie said in a recent interview.

Bowie said he pulled over and brought Dante to the front of the car and shook him, hoping to wake him up.

He wasn’t breathing.

Tyree Bowie describes how he tried to resussitate Dante Mullinix while driving him to the hospital.
Tyree Bowie describes how he tried to resussitate Dante Mullinix while driving him to the hospital.

During his testimony, Bowie indicated that he blew into the toddler's mouth, which blew cookie mush from Dante’s windpipe through his nose, while Bowie tried chest compressions to get the 2-year-old breathing again.

At 10:20 p.m., Bowie arrived at the hospital and handed the toddler to medical personnel. The next day, Bowie was brought in for questioning by York City Police.

From York Hospital, Dante was taken to Penn State Hershey Medical Center, with bruises all over his body, bleeding on the brain and a compressed neck. He was pronounced dead eight days later, on Sept. 15, 2018. He would have turned 3 six days later.

A small angel watches over Dante Mullinix's grave marker at Mount Rose Cemetery on Monday February 29, 2024.
A small angel watches over Dante Mullinix's grave marker at Mount Rose Cemetery on Monday February 29, 2024.

'I thought, it's over'

Bowie was incarcerated at Dauphin County Prison for a prior DUI charge when he found out about Dante's death and that he was facing counts of criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of children.

He was told by friends and family through various phone calls about the news and that his mugshot had been published alongside it.

“My friend Laci told me about this mugshot – I didn’t know what she was talking about. I know what happens to people who go to jail for that stuff (murder), and you have the detective saying this, you have a medical examiner saying this and you have me saying that,” he said in the recent interview.

He said he thought: who would believe him?

Bowie said he felt his life was over – suicide crossed his mind at the time. “I thought, it’s over – at that time I didn’t know how to defend myself.”

He didn’t think anyone believed him – including a handful of lawyers he spoke with before meeting attorney Farley Holt.

After speaking to Holt, Bowie said, he felt like he had hope.

Bowie was moved to York County Prison, where he spent the next four years, before being released in December 2022 after a York County jury found him not guilty of murdering Dante.

More: Mother pleads guilty to child endangerment in death of Dante Mullinix

Facebook message threads led to jury verdict

Holt, who represented Bowie in the month-long trial, believes the Facebook messages between Bowie and Mullinix he obtained through the prosecution were catalysts in convincing the jury of Bowie's innocence.

Over the course of three days, Holt said he presented these messages as evidence to the jury. "The jury came up to me afterwards and said, 'We already had our minds made up as soon as you got done going through the records,'" Holt said.

Messages the two shared over the course of weeks were displayed before the jury. Among them were messages exchanged the day Dante was in Bowie's care. After telling Mullinix that Dante had fallen out of the car but was OK, Mullinix responded: “… I already have cys up my ass lil s*** needs to learn how to listen."

One message, admitted on the fourth day of the trial, read, “I’m sitting here crying I never went thru something like that baby I’m scared," which was sent by Bowie to Mullinix soon after bringing her 2-year-old son to York Hospital.

He later messaged Mullinix describing the look on Dante's face: “No seeing his face he wouldn’t smile at me was the worst I can’t get his face out my head I can’t he always smiled at me but nothing."

"I proved, like I promised them (the jury) I would, who was responsible for this child's death − and I did," Holt said in a recent interview.

Something was different about Dante

On Aug. 17, 2018, Bowie messaged Mullinix on Facebook. She and her son Dante were on the verge of becoming homeless.

They were sort of strangers to each other, but Bowie knew about Mullinix through her sister, Sarah, with whom he had spoken a year earlier.

Leah Mullinix when she was charged with endangering children in connection to the death of her son Dante Mullinix
Leah Mullinix when she was charged with endangering children in connection to the death of her son Dante Mullinix

Meeting Mullinix would change his life forever.

Bowie grew up in York and graduated from William Penn Senior High School in 1996. In 2018, he was working at Denny’s and various jobs through a temp agency. Mullinix was from Gettysburg.

“She told me her situation – her boyfriend kicked her out. I told her I’ll help you out if you help me out,” he said. Bowie’s car had been impounded in Harrisburg after a DUI, and he needed a ride to pick it up.

Bowie invited Leah and her 2-year-old son Dante to the home of his mother.

When they arrived, Mullinix gave Dante a shower. “I got him some diapers and wipes, and she took me up to get my car.” He arranged for Mullinix and her son to stay in a local emergency shelter for domestic violence survivors.

Bowie knew they needed help, and it wasn’t long before the three of them started to grow a bond.

Bowie said the nonverbal 2-year-old seemed afraid of him at first – he was a new face – but after being around him for a short while, Dante started warming up to him.

Bowie said he could sense from Dante's behavior that something was different about him − that he lacked care and attention.

More: 'Baby I'm scared': new text message evidence in homicide trial for Mullinix toddler

To remember him, Sarah Mullinix, his aunt, wears a shirt with Dante's picture on it in 2019
To remember him, Sarah Mullinix, his aunt, wears a shirt with Dante's picture on it in 2019

‘He seemed freer when she wasn’t around’

When he first met Dante, Bowie recalled seeing bruises on the child’s body early on. Mullinix, he said, told him Dante would often bang his head.

At the time, he believed her. “Why would she lie about how her son got bruises,” he said he thought.

Still, Bowie said he suspected something was off. Through spending time with him, Bowie said he never saw Dante casually bang his head. He said Mullinix expressed that Dante only did it when no one else was around them.

Knowing the two stayed at a shelter, Bowie thought, if shelter employees observed Dante in his condition and didn’t report any kind of domestic abuse – “maybe he really was doing it.”

One of the main reasons Bowie became so involved with Leah and Dante was because he felt bad. He said Dante was always “hungry” and “dirty.”

Dante’s father, Joe Sanchez, was a convicted felon and was not present in Dante’s life. Mullinix was involved with several men throughout her 2-year-old’s life before Bowie, including Hector Rivera, also known as "Holiday," an alleged member of the Latin Kings, which she disclosed during her testimony.

Trial testimony alleged that Holiday had caused bruising to Dante when he would take the 2-year-old out with his Latin Kings friends and their kids.

On Aug. 31, 2018, Mullinix took Dante to be treated for a swelling and ulcers on his penis at York Hospital, and was given two prescriptions, which she neglected to fill, York City Police revealed during the investigation. Two days later, the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, forced Mullinix to fill the prescriptions.

The investigation also revealed that Children, Youth and Families Services in Pennsylvania received reports of inadequate food and clothing, homelessness and inappropriate discipline in the months before Dante's death.

Occasionally, Bowie would pick Dante and Leah up from the shelter and spend time with them. They would get food and take it to the park, and Bowie recalled Dante sitting next to him rather than his mother.

When they ran errands or went shopping, Dante held Bowie's hand.

At the time, Bowie was living in a townhouse with his friend and would bring Dante and Mullinix over occasionally. Sometimes Bowie would step outside to smoke a cigarette, and Dante would follow him. “He seemed freer when she wasn’t around.”

More: Trial in killing of 2-year-old Dante Mullinix is delayed over issues such as I-83 billboard

Justice For Dante

Sarah Mullinix, Leah's sister, ran a Facebook page, Justice for Dante, that advocated for justice for her 2-year-old nephew.

She believed Bowie was innocent and used her Facebook page as a platform to publish Children and Youth Services reports and medical documents. The York City Police Department later charged her with unauthorized release of information under the Child Protective Services Law.

Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock dismissed the charge.

More: She slammed investigation into nephew's homicide. York cops charged her for Facebook posts

In 2022, Sarah, along with family, friends and supporters of Bowie, took out an electronic billboard on Interstate 83 stating the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families was at fault in Dante's death.

The billboard, which featured two photos of Dante, read: “I was murdered because York County Children Youth and Families left me to die — Even though a forensic nurse told them I should be taken 4 days prior! Why didn't my life matter?”

‘I still have nightmares’

It’s been a little over one year since Bowie was found not guilty of murdering Dante, and he said reacclimating to the real world has been difficult.

Driving down George Street, or even going past hospitals, is difficult for him. If he can avoid them, he does.

Finding a job isn't easy. Bowie said he was driving a pallet jack for a job he recently had, and one evening, while operating the vehicle in the warehouse, he found himself thinking about driving down George Street with Dante in the back seat. When he finally snapped out of it, Bowie drove straight into a pole. Later, he lost his job.

Tyree Bowie describes the harrowing ride to the hospital with Dante Mullinix, after the 2-year old stopped breathing and how the nightmare continued with a four years in jail.
Tyree Bowie describes the harrowing ride to the hospital with Dante Mullinix, after the 2-year old stopped breathing and how the nightmare continued with a four years in jail.

Even sitting down for an interview in a study room at a public library makes him anxious and gives him PTSD, reminding him of interrogations he faced during the case investigation.

“There’s nights where I’m up all night – I still have nightmares. I still think about that day.” Bowie thinks about what he could have done differently that night, and whether that would have changed the outcome for Dante.

During the four years he spent in prison, Bowie's mental health was suffering, he said. He saw several therapists and took antidepressants. "In jail, you got to hide your emotions, you can't just break down and cry." He often met with therapists, where he could get emotional.

While he currently does not seek mental health treatment, he is using the tools he learned in prison to get through the rough days.

"Talking – that's what helped me. That's what I do now, if I'm depressed, there's people that I can vent to that help me."

Bowie admits life was not perfect before Mullinix and Dante came into his life.

He’s fathered several children with different women, some of whom stuck up for him throughout the trial. He said many of the relationships he has with his children, however, are distant. Though he hopes to mend them one day, some may never be mended, he said. "I have to build a better relationship with my kids."

"When all this is said and done, I can one day carry my mind, and have a normal conversation where I can be around them and not think about this."

He admits to not handling confrontation well, saying he is reminded of the conversations he had with the detective during the investigation. “I can’t argue, I have flashbacks of him yelling at me,” Bowie said.

More: Jurors find Tyree Bowie not guilty of all charges in death of 2-year-old Dante Mullinix

‘That was my guy’

Bowie recalled the pleasant moments he spent with Dante, saying the two of them shared a bond. “I cared about this kid.” So much so that Bowie told Leah when he got a place of his own he would want Dante to live with him. And he said she agreed.

“I felt he didn’t have anybody – no father figure.”

Knowing Dante was nonverbal, Bowie believes the child spoke through his actions.

“When he was following me around maybe it wasn’t because he really liked me – maybe it was him telling me not to leave him alone with her,” Bowie said.

Bowie had spent plenty of time with kids, but never a child like Dante.

“We would be sitting out back, and I would say to him (Dante), ‘It’s just me and you.’ It was just us against the world.”

Civil suit planned

Now, Bowie said he is planning to take legal action.

On Jan. 19, 2024, Bowie and his lawyer, Aaron D. Martin, filed a writ of summons alleging malicious prosecution by the City of York and York City Police Detective Kyle Hower. Bowie and his attorney declined to comment on details regarding the suit. The actual complaint has not yet been filed, and so Bowie's specific allegations are unclear.

The City of York declined to comment, as it is a pending civil matter. Hower could not reached for comment.

Video: 'Fell through the cracks': The 2-year-old boy without a headstone on his grave (2019)

Will Dante ever receive justice?

Bowie believes the road to legal justice for Dante is over.

"It's sad to say, but they're not going to admit that they (prosecution) messed up – they said what they said at my trial, and they can't take that back."

York County District Attorney David Sunday could not be reached for comment, regarding the Bowie trial.

On Jan. 18, 2023, Mullinix pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of children and underwent a psychiatric examination and a substance abuse evaluation.

She was sentenced to five years probation in November 2023, and as part of her sentence, she is forbidden from having unsupervised contact with minors and must comply with any requirements placed on her by the county's Children, Youth and Family agency.

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Tyree Bowie speaks out year after Dante Mullinix murder acquittal