'I went crazy': Tyree Bowie describes Dante Mullinix's ride to the hospital
Tyree Bowie blamed himself for giving Dante Mullinix a cookie, he said Tuesday, testifying in his own defense as his trial in the 2-year-old boy's death entered its fourth week.
“I never experienced something like that before,” Bowie said, describing his frantic efforts to resuscitate the boy. “I thought that it was my fault. So, like, I just-- I went crazy in my head.”
He referred to the panic he felt after he took Dante to York Hospital, and then went home. The 43-year-old is charged with murder and child endangerment, accused of killing Dante while the two were alone together the night of Sept. 6, 2018.
Investigators allege Bowie beat Dante, causing severe injuries that night that led to the boy’s hospitalization and death about nine days later. An autopsy ruled that traumatic brain injury caused the death, along with strangulation and suffocation.
Bowie disputes the allegations, saying Dante choked on a Teddy Graham cookie in his car. A competing medical opinion for the defense backed up his assertions.
'Father figure': He denied hitting, punching, kicking, strangling or smashing the boy to the ground, saying he would never harm, lay hands on or yell at Dante. He said he intended to be a positive influence for the boy, who, in his final weeks, according to trial evidence and allegations, was a victim of neglect by his mother and a victim of abuse by others.
“I tried to be that father figure he didn’t have. I tried to show him what it’s like to be a kid and to not be abused,” Bowie said Tuesday.
Bowie gave his account of the situation during that Thursday night leading up to when he brought Dante, unresponsive, to the hospital.
Bowie said he was with Dante and the boy's mother, Leah Mullinix, at a home where Bowie was staying after they spent that day running errands together. He estimated they’d been together about 10 hours.
As they relaxed, Leah Mullinix told Bowie she had a migraine that had worsened throughout the day, and she wanted to go to the hospital, according to her earlier testimony.
The announcement was the first she spoke of having a headache, Bowie said, and when she mentioned it, Dante was lying on his lap. He said he went to put Dante down so they could leave, but the boy “threw up.” That was apparently the second such incident after Dante gagged on cheeseburger bites earlier, according to Bowie's testimony.
Looking after Dante: Bowie said Mullinix asked him to look after the boy as she sought treatment for her headache. He cleaned the boy up, dropped Mullinix off at the hospital and, with the boy in the back seat, stopped at a friend's house near South George Street. Bowie, under cross-examination Tuesday, said he bought a gram of marijuana there.
The pair continued on their way and drove up to the Rutter’s gas station along Susquehanna Trail shortly after 8:30 that night. When he went to get Dante out of the car, Bowie testified that Dante ended up on the floor of the back seat with his head down like he was praying.
The boy was conscious and indicated he was okay, Bowie said, but he added Dante knew the word “yes” and never used the word “no.”
“But his voice was, like, froggy, raspy,” Bowie testified.
He also noticed a substance on the boy’s face.
“When I looked at him, I seen a smudge of makeup right there,” he said.
A woman there also noticed the situation and asked if Dante was okay, and Bowie told her he was, according to his testimony.
They went inside the gas station, browsed, and Bowie said he bought a bottle of alcohol and a cigar to roll his marijuana into. As he paid at the counter, security camera video showed him turn to Dante.
“At one point, I hugged him, and I noticed he was shaking,” Bowie said. “I told him I was gonna protect him, and he was going to be okay.”
Not acting right: Bowie testified Dante didn’t seem normal that whole day. But he accepted Mullinix’s belief that the boy was probably struggling from an ongoing, weeks-old genital infection she just started getting treatment for earlier that week.
Under cross-examination, Bowie said he saw a red mark on Dante’s face during one of the errand stops earlier that day. He also said he saw his eyes roll back in his head a few times and he seemed quiet while they were with Leah Mullinix.
After visiting the gas station that night, Bowie said he and Dante went back to his place. He texted Mullinix around 9 p.m. that they were home while she sat in the hospital’s emergency department.
He opened the rear passenger of his car for Dante while trying to fish a house key out of the waistband of his pants, he said. The key, according to Bowie, slid down his leg and into his shoe, which he didn’t realize until after he was arrested in the case.
Bowie said Dante stumbled and fell, landing on his right knee and striking his chin on the bottom edge of the car door. Dante acknowledged in a raspy voice that he was okay, Bowie said. Bowie then messaged Mullinix about the fall and the chin injury, and the two chatted about it for a bit while he and Dante were locked out of the home.
Bowie said he then called Mullinix for a video chat to show her Dante’s face, including a bruise, he said, that he saw on the boy’s neck as they sat in his car.
Wiped off makeup: He said he used a napkin to wipe makeup off Dante’s face and that he later told police he got some on the door panel and on the t-shirt he wore that night.
Bowie alleged in police statements and during his testimony that he saw Mullinix put makeup on Dante to cover up bruises. Mullinix earlier denied applying makeup on her son. Investigators said they hadn’t found evidence of makeup on Dante, on Bowie’s clothes or in his car.
In testimony, Bowie said he asked Mullinix multiple times about bruises he’d seen on Dante, as well as her using makeup on him. According to Bowie, she said a man she was with earlier that summer, identified at trial as Hector Rivera, had beaten and possibly molested Dante. Mullinix reportedly told Bowie that Rivera had threatened her.
His belief that Mullinix had stopped seeing Rivera by Sept. 6, 2018, led him not to feel compelled to report the allegations sooner, Bowie said.
But as that night intensified, he indicated his questions and concerns came back up.
Bowie said he changed Dante’s diaper at one point, and he didn’t put his pants back on as a way to help let his infection air out. He also decided to drive him back to the hospital instead of keeping him in the car while they waited at the home. He gave Dante a Teddy Graham cookie from the diaper bag he had with him.
Problem while driving: Bowie said he drove down George Street back toward York Hospital with Dante unbuckled in the back seat.
As they passed the 3rd Base restaurant just north of downtown, he said he heard a noise and turned to see Dante leaning on the door’s arm rest. He said he thought Dante looked like he fell asleep, and he tried to wake him back up.
Bowie pulled over to the side of the road, he said, and he started video calling Mullinix while his phone was hooked into a clip on the dashboard at close to 10 p.m. He then reached into the back seat and grabbed Dante.
“I pulled him up front with me, and his eyes were closed, and he wasn’t responding to me,” he said.
Bowie said Dante didn’t respond when he called his name.
So, he said he put the fingers of his dominant left hand into the child’s mouth and down his throat to dig the cookie out. He gripped his jaw and neck area with his right. He also changed hands at one point, he said.
Bowie said he started driving again while holding the child on his lap in the driver’s seat and trying to dig out the cookie.
“I blew in his mouth, and the cookie blew out of his nose and stuck to my face,” he said.
Bowie said that as he was “flipping out.” He asked Mullinix on the video call about the makeup and bruises on Dante. He estimated this was about the time she was seen on security video going into a hospital bathroom to take the call.
He pulled over a second time at Maple Street to attempt more CPR. This time, he said Dante “just went completely limp,” and his head fell backward.
“I felt like it was my fault because I gave him the cookies,” he said, his voice breaking as he struggled through tears.
At the hospital: As shown earlier at trial, Bowie drove up to York Hospital’s emergency department shortly after 10:20 p.m. He got out of the car and pulled Dante, wearing only a diaper, out of the driver’s seat with him. He then carried the boy up to the ER doors where Mullinix waited for him outside.
Bowie said he told Mullinix to alert medical staff of the emergency, but she didn’t speak to any personnel, according to his testimony and security video evidence.
They checked into the hospital, and staff rushed Dante into the ER, where he was intubated. They got him breathing again.
Bowie hugged Mullinix at the entrance, and he testified he told her she needed to talk to doctors and “tell the truth” about the makeup and bruises he saw on Dante. He then left, saying he was going to park the car.
But he didn’t return to the hospital. Instead, he went back home.
Messages between the two, presented at trial, showed Bowie explaining the choking ordeal to Mullinix while Dante was at the hospital.
Bowie sent other messages that indicated growing concerns about the bruising and Rivera when Mullinix mentioned hospital staff detected Dante had internal problems.
When asked by his attorney, Farley Holt, Bowie denied striking Dante and injuring him.
“I would never harm Dante, nor would I ever yell at Dante,” he said.
Holt went a couple steps further.
“Did you ever burn Dante with a cigarette?”
“Did you give Dante an STD?”
“No, sir. I don’t have an STD,” Bowie said.
Earlier trial evidence and testimony showed Dante had herpes when he died, and that Rivera was apparently infected.
Bowie denied he and Mullinix developed a committed, romantic relationship, even though they’d had sex once and sexted each other a few times.
Mullinix, 26, is charged with a felony count of child endangerment in the case. Her next hearing is scheduled for January.
Rivera was not charged in the case.
The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.
— Reach Aimee Ambrose at email@example.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.