'Please tell me he’s OK': Texts read during trial in Dante Mullinix's death
Tyree Bowie described the moment of panic when Dante Mullinix started choking to the 2-year-old's mother, Leah, in a text at 11:01 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2018.
“I pulled over got him and gave him mouth to mouth and was beating on his chest," he wrote, in texts shown in court Friday in Bowie's trial. "He wasn’t responding to me. I never went thru [sic] this s---. I couldn’t get that out my head. That’s my son man and I couldn’t help him.”
The message was one of a blizzard between the two over a few hours that night, starting when Bowie was looking after Dante and continuing as the boy was dying at York Hospital.
The texts, shared through Facebook Messenger, appear to show a progression of intensity, anxiety, anguish and confusion as Dante’s condition grew more and more grave.
The toddler was flown from York to Hershey Medical Center late that night. He died days later, and traumatic head, chest and suffocation injuries were deemed the cause.
Bowie, 43, is on trial this month, charged with murder and child endangerment and accused of severely beating Dante while the two were alone together for an hour and 40 minutes that Sept. 6.
Bowie’s attorney, Farley Holt, says he’s innocent. He argues that Dante's mother, Leah Mullinix, and others were largely responsible for persistent injuries to Dante — including someone giving the boy genital herpes — that, along with the situation that night, contributed to Dante becoming unresponsive.
Evidence and testimony at trial showed Bowie took Dante to York Hospital around 8:30 that night so Dante's mother could be seen for a migraine. Bowie then drove Dante to a Rutter’s gas station along Susquehanna Trail and made a purchase. The two went back to the house where Bowie was staying, then started driving back to the hospital to visit Dante's mother.
Holt argued that Dante was not OK that night. When Bowie fed him a cookie in the car, he choked, and Bowie made a crude attempt at CPR while rushing him back to York Hospital around 10:30 p.m.
The prosecution argues Dante was severely injured sometime between the Rutter’s stop and the return to the hospital, and that no evidence of cookies or choking exists.
Detective Tiffany Pitts, of the York City Police Department’s Special Victims Unit, testified during the trial Friday. Her role in the investigation included gathering electronic evidence, such as phone records, messaging and media from Bowie's and Leah Mullinix’s phones.
Pitts read pages of instant messages between the two, verbatim, starting from a little after 9 that night, while Leah Mullinix waited to be seen at the hospital and after Bowie and Dante left Rutter’s. The texts imply some kind of romantic relationship between Bowie and Leah Mullinix. He also often refers to Dante with fatherly affection, though he was not the boy’s biological father.
As presented, the messages were also barren of context and rife with misspellings. The messages do provide a glimpse at how the interactions between Bowie and Leah Mullinix progressed through midnight that night.
“We are home babe,” Bowie texted at 9:06 p.m. “But he feel [sic] out the f------ car lol.”
“I’m glad baby sorry for not bringing him wit [sic] me,” Leah Mullinix responded.
“Yea baby he f----- his chin up he tried getting out the car and f------ fell I told him to wait,” Bowie texted about 15 minutes later as they chatted.
“SMFH [and] I already have [CYF] up my a-- lil s--- needs to learn how to listen,” Leah Mullinix responded.
Bowie briefly called a former girlfriend, Holly Carson, around 9:47 p.m., asking if she needed anything. The woman testified that she asked him to grab cigarettes.
“He sounded … normal to me,” Carson testified later in the trial.
Under cross-examination, she also told Holt she thought Bowie sounded like he was calling from a car because she could hear wind noise in the background.
Bowie’s conversation with Leah Mullinix turned serious shortly after 10 p.m.
The two spoke during a video call for 29 minutes, corresponding with security video that was shown at trial Thursday of Leah Mullinix waiting for Bowie to return to the hospital.
He arrived shortly before 10:30 p.m., pulled a limp Dante out of the car with him, and met Leah Mullinix at the emergency department entrance while carrying him inside. After emergency staff rushed Dante into a room, video showed Bowie hugging Mullinix, then leaving the hospital while she stayed.
“I’m sorry we was driving and he was cool I gave him the crackers and I don’t know what after that,” Bowie messaged at 10:42 p.m. “We was gonna surprise you at the hospital I’m so sorry.”
“Is he ok please tell me he’s ok,” Bowie also texted.
“He has a heart beat,” Leah Mullinix said in one reply.
Bowie seemed to grow more agitated while asking about Dante’s condition, according to the texts presented in court. He also gave explanations about Dante falling out of the car and seeming “ok,” and later choking on cookies.
“I was trying to give him mouth to mouth I was beating on his chest and the cookies was coming out his nose baby. Sorry I gave them to him but he was cool then the cookies I don’t know baby,” he said in one exchange. “I’m so sorry I failed.”
Shortly before 11 p.m., Leah Mullinix says “they” want to know where Dante stopped breathing. Bowie said George Street, just north of downtown.
He then recounted again how he attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR via pounding on the boy’s chest to dislodge the cookie.
“He was fine he finally said dad and after that nothing baby,” Bowie also messaged. “He said dad.”
Leah Mullinix texted at 11:09 p.m. that Dante had been intubated and was breathing, and that a pastor had visited. A few minutes later, she said Dante had to be transferred to Hershey Medical Center.
Bowie began to explain the situation again in a series of rambling texts.
“He did fall out the car but after that he was cool he was dancing to Nelly and I asked him if he was cool he said yeah and we was coming to you to surprise you and I gave him the cookies and he feel [sic] out baby,” he said, in one message. “He was my son and I would never let anything bad happen to him but this s--- is out of control.”
Leah Mullinix messaged at 11:23 p.m. that a police officer had arrived to take a report.
“Pastor [and] a cop they have to report everything since it’s a child [and he said it was clearly an accident so no one is in trouble,” she said.
Bowie indicated a need for distance to clear his head and cope with the situation he’d described. In several messages, he said he didn’t want to be around children anymore because he was so freaked out.
“I can’t get his face out my head,” he said.
Leah Mullinix appeared to grow worried that he was leaving her.
“Wtf Tyree ur [sic] leaving me,” she said in one message. “I’ll take care of him. I don’t wanna lose you.”
She also messaged Bowie several times to return to the hospital both for her and to give his version of events. Bowie didn’t drive back that night.
“It wuz [sic] an accident ur not to blame,” Leah Mullinix messaged around 11:50 p.m.
“Yes I am,” Bowie replied.
“[You] have to be here,” she responded.
“I should of never gave them to him without a drink," Bowie wrote. "I don’t know it’s my fault it’s my fault.”
Bowie’s agitation also seemed to grow after Leah Mullinix mentioned Dante having internal problems and being flown to Hershey.
In a series of texts in the 11 o’clock hour, he questioned what the internal issues were and wondered why medical professionals hadn't caught them at previous medical visits, even at one point contemplating suing the hospital. In a few other texts, Bowie made accusations about Leah Mullinix bringing Dante to other men she hung out with.
In between the messages between Bowie and Leah Mullinix, his friend and roommate, Laci Peiffer, texted him around 11:34 p.m.
Bowie wrote back two minutes later.
“Sitting at the crib smoking lol,” he said.
He sent another text to Peiffer at 12:13 a.m.: “On my phone lmao.”
During recess, when asked about that text, Holt said Bowie mistakenly included the laughing text lingo, which came up as auto-fill suggestion on his phone and ended up in the texts.
Bowie didn’t text Peiffer about what had happened, according to the transcripts read at trial. His mother attempted to call and text him early in the morning. Peiffer also attempted a few calls at about 2 a.m.
Testimony was also taken from other detectives who assisted in the investigation, as well as staff at the shelter where Mullinix and her son were staying at the time.
A small group of demonstrators continued to rally Friday in support of Bowie outside the York County Judicial Center.
The trial is scheduled to resume Monday.
Mullinix, 26, is also charged in the case, facing a felony count of child endangerment. Her next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 18, according to court records.
— Reach Aimee Ambrose at email@example.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.