'I'd seen bruises': Tyree Bowie testifies at trial in Dante Mullinix's death

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

From day one, Tyree Bowie said Dante Mullinix seemed like he was in bad shape.

When Bowie first saw Dante, he testified late Thursday afternoon, the 2-year-old appeared bruised and unkempt.

“He was dirty," he said. "Clothes was dirty. Sneakers was dirty. Hair was nappy. He had bruises on his face.”

Tyree Bowie in an photo submitted by family.

The 43-year-old began testifying in his defense Thursday. He gave his account to a jury of how he met Leah Mullinix and her son in the summer of 2018, how they bonded, and circumstances from his perspective that led to Dante’s death a month later.

Bowie is charged with murder and child endangerment, accused of severely beating Dante the night of Sept. 6 and causing significant injuries that led to the child’s death.

The defense disputes the allegations and holds to Bowie’s insistence that Dante choked on a cookie in his car, stopped breathing and lost consciousness. He sent texts and told police that he tried giving the boy a crude CPR to restart his breathing before rushing him to York Hospital.

The trial halted Thursday evening while Bowie was still on the stand as part of his attorney Farley Holt’s case.

Dante Mullinix

The jury was given an opportunity to stay home Friday as Judge Gregory Snyder said the courthouse was slated to close at noon because of the expected winter weather. The courthouse was closed Monday in observance of Christmas.

Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday as the trial enters its fourth week.

Bowie told the jury he first met Mullinix on Facebook that August. They chatted, with Bowie first telling her he thought she looked like someone he worked with.

RELATED COVERAGE:

More:Family astonished by bruises, 'welts' on 2-year-old Dante Mullinix

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

More:Pathologist insists Dante Mullinix was strangled, had severe brain trauma

During the conversation, he said Mullinix told him her boyfriend kicked her off his property and that she and Dante were homeless.

Mullinix testified earlier in the week she had been with a man named Hector Rivera since that June. Rivera, according to trial testimony, was an alleged Latin Kings gang member nicknamed “Holiday.”

Bowie said he offered to have Mullinix meet him at his mother’s house along North Hartley Street on Aug. 18 where she and Dante could get a shower and food. He also offered to buy her diapers and wipes for Dante, and he’d pay for gas for her car.  

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism. 

In exchange, he said he asked her to drive him to Harrisburg where his car was impounded following a DUI stop the day before.

When they met that day and he first saw Dante, he said the boy was dirty, soiled. He said Dante looked like he “exploded” in his diaper, and poop was visible through his jeans and up his T-shirt.

Saw bruises: Mullinix then gave Dante a bath inside, and Bowie saw his skin.

“I’d seen bruises on his leg. I’d seen bruises on his back. His penis area looked red,” he said.

Police investigate York City shooting that left two injured

Pa. expands access to drugs that reverse opioid overdoses

Missing York City juvenile found: police

Earlier testimony and evidence at trial showed Dante had a genital infection that was initially believed to be balanitis. The infection may have started after she left Rivera’s place, Mullinix indicated.

That day they met, Bowie asked about the bruises, and he said Mullinix blamed Rivera.

“She told me her boyfriend ‘Holiday’ beat on Dante,” he said. “She told me she believed he might’ve molested Dante.”

Bowie said she felt as though she'd be threatened if she reported the abuse. He also alleged that day was the first time he saw Mullinix use makeup to cover bruises on Dante’s face.

Dante Mullinix was two weeks shy of his third birthday when he was killed.

Bowie brought up the bruises again over the next couple weeks, he said, alleging Mullinix would pass them off as Dante falling or hitting his head on objects in frustration. He said he initially had reservations about being around Mullinix and Dante since he feared people would assume he caused the boy’s bruises.

Developed a relationship: But Bowie and Mullinix continued seeing each other through the first week of that September.

Bowie said he took her and Dante to a park in West Manchester Township to hang out, bought pizza and burgers for them at times and gave her $90 for a hotel stay once, though she spent most of that money on necessities and a new phone charger instead.

They also exchanged hundreds of texts and had video chats through Facebook Messenger, some of which prosecutors shared with the jury over the course of the trial.

A “kind of boyfriend-girlfriend-type” relationship developed, according to Bowie.

According to the testimony of several witnesses, Mullinix apparently still saw Rivera and associated with other people, including a man named Albert Castro, nicknamed “Ghost.” She essentially lived out of her car at the time.

Testimony showed she left the car parked behind Castro’s mother’s home along South Queen Street for some days, and that she and Dante apparently slept in the car at times.

Castro’s mother, Arlene, along with her longtime boyfriend and granddaughter, testified Thursday that they had Dante in their house one time around Aug. 29.

They each described a stench coming off him and gave him a bath. There, they said they saw his body riddled with bruises, and his genitals were inflamed from the ongoing infection.

The three family members each looked at exhibits of selfie photos of Dante and pointed out he looked healthy in the photos in contrast to the skinny child they saw that day.

Bowie also testified that the Dante he saw didn’t look as healthy as he did in the photos shown at trial.

“He never looked that healthy,” he said, suggesting the photos might have been taken long before he met the two.

Getting into a shelter: Bowie helped Mullinix and her son enter a domestic abuse shelter that Aug. 30, according to trial testimony. The allegations against Rivera were given as the reason to gain access.

Mullinix testified that Dante was frequently crying, fussing and throwing tantrums by that time.

Complaints were raised at the shelter, which led to Mullinix and her son being taken to York Hospital twice over the course of a few days so he could get looked at.

A nurse documented bruises on him during one visit, and medication was prescribed for his genital infection.

Bowie, Mullinix and Dante hung out for much of the day on Sept. 6, following a third visit to the hospital.

Leah Mullinix

That evening, Mullinix said a migraine grew intense enough that she wanted to go back to the hospital for treatment.

Bowie dropped her off and agreed to babysit Dante in the meantime.

They were together for about two hours, which included a stop at a gas station before heading back to the place where Bowie was staying.

He and Mullinix messaged each other in that time, with Bowie once saying Dante took a spill out of his car.

Mullinix said the last she saw her son conscious was on a video call a little after 9 that night. He seemed normal, she said, except for a scrape on his chin.

Texts indicated Bowie planned to head back to the hospital so they could visit Mullinix. But then around 10 p.m., they were on another video call.

Mullinix testified Bowie told her he fed Dante a cookie — a Teddy Graham, according to evidence — he choked and stopped breathing. He repeated his description of the situation in texts to her that night.

Emergency treatment: Bowie brought Dante limp and unconscious into the hospital, and he was rushed to the emergency department.

Medical staff documented fresh, red bruises on the boy’s body, including bruising on his lower jaw and what looked like fingerprints on his neck, as well as a bite mark on his arm.

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism. 

Dante was flown to Hershey Medical Center later that night. He died nine days later after being kept alive on a ventilator.

An autopsy found Dante died from a traumatic brain injury along with strangulation and suffocation injuries. Prosecutors allege that injury and the others seen on his body had to have been caused in that time he was with Bowie.

A competing medical conclusion for the defense found Dante died by choking which cut off oxygen to his brain. The opinion supports Bowie’s assertion the boy choked on a cookie.

While Bowie has been charged with murder, Mullinix also faces a felony count of child endangerment as part of the case. She has denied injuring her son.

Her next hearing is scheduled for January.

Rivera has not been charged in the case, according to court information.

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