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As man stands trial for murder, mother alleges another ex abused son

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Leah Mullinix’s stress level pushed higher and higher over about two weeks while she was homeless in August 2018.

Her 2-year-old son, Dante, kept crying and throwing tantrums as a genital infection, as first believed, worsened and became increasingly painful the longer she let it go untreated. She was exhausted, she said.

Around that time, Mullinix also met Tyree Bowie. He helped her out here and there as he got to know her and her son, including once giving her money for a hotel room — most of that money, though, went to buy items like food, diapers and a new phone charger.

Bowie also took initiative by the end of that month and helped Mullinix and her son get into a domestic abuse shelter in downtown York. She said he looked it up and found a number for her to call.

She told a jury she didn’t recall exactly what she told shelter staff to gain entry.

Dante Mullinix

She didn’t implicate Bowie as her abuser, though.

Mullinix instead accused a man, nicknamed “Holiday,” as the person who verbally abused her and physically abused Dante that summer.

“‘Holiday’ beat on Dante, didn’t he? Didn’t he?” Bowie’s attorney, Farley Holt, asked her.

“I do think he did hit him,” Mullinix replied.

Leah Mullinix

She also said she told Bowie about the abuse and that “Holiday” had herpes, but she couldn’t remember saying whether he had also molested her son.

Bowie, meanwhile, had an apparent ability to soothe Dante when he saw him. And as the three got to know each other, he would refer to the toddler affectionately, with terms like “my boy.”

Mullinix admitted she’d started becoming more and more dependent on Bowie for emotional and material support.

“Your future was Mr. Bowie, wasn’t it?” Holt asked.

“I really relied on him,” she replied.

Tyree Bowie in an photo submitted by family.

Bowie also seemed to feel warm about helping Mullinix find the shelter as well as looking into helping her access welfare resources.

“I’m glad I made that call for you. I feel good about something once in my life,” he said in a private message to her, which was read in court.

Mullinix spoke through a marathon cross-exam grilling Monday — the start of the trial’s third week.

She was called as a prosecution witness Friday in the trial where Bowie is charged with murdering Dante.

Her testimony ran nearly five hours before the case was called for the weekend Friday evening.

Holt had her back on the stand Monday morning for a full day of unrelenting questioning.

The courtroom gallery behind the defense table was packed with people, mainly supporting Bowie, according to some in the audience, watching each minute of the proceedings.

Holt went for hours, bit-by-bit through a 166-page document of Facebook Messenger conversations that were pulled from her phone.

The testimony focused on posts between Mullinix and Bowie from when they first started interacting on Aug. 18 and into early September.

The conversations painted an image of Mullinix’s circumstances leading up to the night of Sept. 6, when she went to WellSpan York Hospital to be seen for a migraine while Bowie watched Dante for her.

Prosecutors allege Bowie, 43, severely beat and strangled Dante, causing him to stop breathing, while the two were alone during a window of about one hour and 40 minutes.

Autopsy results found Dante died from traumatic head injury coupled with strangulation and suffocation. Doctors concluded the effects from the injuries had to have been immediate and occurring within that window.

Bowie told police, and Holt has argued, that Dante seemed unwell that night, and as he drove him back to York Hospital to see Mullinix, the boy choked on a Teddy Graham cookie on North George Street.

Dante stopped breathing as Bowie sought to dig the food out of his airway and attempt to resuscitate him in the car, according to Bowie's version of events.

A defense medical expert supported that version with an opinion that Dante died accidentally due to brain swelling brought on by lack of oxygen and choking.

After Bowie rushed the dying boy to the hospital’s emergency department, investigators alleged a series of fresh bruises and injuries were found on Dante’s body that hadn’t been seen before.

Those were in addition to a series of other bruises and the inflamed genital infection that were discovered on him four days earlier.

Dante was flown later that night to Hershey Medical Center, and he was officially declared deceased about nine days later.

During her testimony, Mullinix said she and Dante came to York County around June 2018 after leaving her sister’s place in Adams County.

She allegedly ditched child welfare workers there in the process.

Mullinix became involved with “Holiday,” an alleged Latin Kings gang member whose real name, according to trial testimony, is Hector Rivera, shortly after arriving in York. She stayed at his family’s house along South Street.

She said she was told to leave early that month because she had cheated on Rivera. She and Dante then ended up at the home of another man, identified as Albert Castro, with the nickname “Ghost,” along South Queen Street.

Mullinix testified she alleged to Bowie through messages that Rivera abused his own children, which Dante apparently witnessed and was traumatized by. She also alleged Rivera may have left a bruise on Dante.

“All that boy wants is to be loved and hugged by a male figure, and not in a weird way,” Bowie told her in one message read in court.

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Going into that September, Mullinix admitted York County Children Youth & Families had contacted her, and she said she initially suspected Rivera’s family called the agency on her.

“That you were abusing Dante, right?” Holt asked.

“I think so,” Mullinix said.

She alleged Dante’s genital infection, which was later found to be herpes, started shortly after she left Rivera.

“Did your son start having that infection … as soon as you moved out of Holiday’s?”

“I think it was around that time.”

She met Bowie around Aug. 18, and estimated that was more than 10 days after she’d noticed something wrong with Dante’s genitals, but she hadn’t sought medical treatment for the child.

Going into late August, Mullinix said her and Dante’s situation worsened and worsened.

She was trying to sleep in her car outside Castro’s home on hot summer nights. Dante was becoming more and more irritable, crying more often and throwing tantrums, which would rob her of sleep and wear on her nerves.

She also had a flat tire, and with no money to fix it, she could no longer drive anywhere.

Dante’s infection went untreated for some days further.

By the night of Aug. 29, Mullinix said Castro’s family wanted her to leave their house because she wasn’t taking Dante to the hospital.

When asked, Mullinix also said she didn’t remember if Dante had fallen off a bed, hit his head and blacked out for about 30 seconds, around that time. She also denied talking to Bowie’s mother about it.

“It could’ve happened, and you just don’t recall it?” Holt asked.

“I don’t even know,” she said.

Mullinix entered the shelter around Aug. 30, a week before Dante lost consciousness and never woke back up.

Dante’s crying and tantrums persisted at the shelter.

She finally took him to York Hospital the night of Aug. 31 into the early morning hours of Sept. 1. They apparently spent hours waiting for staff to see the boy. Medication was eventually prescribed.

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But she didn’t fill it then and asked Bowie to pick it up for her. He tried, according to the testimony, but his car broke down.

Shelter staff eventually complained to CYF about Dante’s crying, and a staffer brought the two back to York Hospital on Sept. 2.

There, the prescription was filled. A forensic nurse also documented bruises and marks that riddled the boy’s head and body.

Mullinix went back to the hospital again for a follow-up exam the morning of Sept. 6. She, Dante and Bowie hung out the rest of the day, before Mullinix sought treatment for a growing migraine and before Bowie would watch Dante alone that night.

Mullinix is charged with child endangerment in the case. The felony count was filed in early 2019, a few months after Bowie was charged, and her case has been pending until the resolution of Bowie's case.

She said Friday the charge relates to her failing to seek medical attention for Dante's infection as well as for leaving him in Bowie's care. She denied causing the injuries that prosecutors allege killed her son.

The trial is expected to resume Tuesday.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.