After marathon closing arguments, Tyree Bowie trial edges closer to jury's hands

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

The jury opted to return Friday, the second-to-last day of 2022, to begin deliberating whether Tyree Bowie murdered 2-year-old Dante Mullinix in 2018 — or if he was a man caught at the center of a tragedy of someone else’s making.

Jurors sat through approximately five hours of closing arguments Thursday in the trial that's lasted four weeks.

They will ultimately decide whether Bowie is guilty of charges of first- and third-degree murder, as well as a felony count of endangering the welfare of a child. Bowie declined to have another count of involuntary manslaughter added as a lesser-included offense in the case, according to his attorney, Farley Holt.

Tyree Bowie in an photo submitted by family.

First Assistant District Attorney Tim Barker's contention is that Dante is a “battered, bludgeoned and beaten-to-death little boy,” and that Bowie was the person responsible for the injuries that ultimately killed Dante.

Bowie’s attorney pointed the finger at Dante’s mother, Leah Mullinix, as the one who abused her son. He also alleged law enforcement failed to prove their case.

“If ever there was a case there was reasonable doubt, this is the case. It’s one giant, steaming pile of reasonable doubt,” Holt said.

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Barker and Holt fought with passion and convictions that their arguments were right and just.

They fought with sarcasm over lies they saw from either side. Barker called Bowie’s account an “ever-changing story.” Holt accused Mullinix of covering up her actions with makeup and words.

Dante Mullinix

They disputed each other’s experts and their findings, and they mocked each other’s investigations as forcing facts to fit their stories. Because that’s what has been presented over this month: stories. Accounts. Versions, each with evidence to support them and each with details that are difficult to verify.

Barker wanted the jury to believe, certain of the medical evidence, that Bowie attacked Dante with vicious punches and kicks, bit him on the arm and slammed him to the ground in a narrow period of time while they were alone.

According to Barker's version of events, the fatal injuries were inflicted during a window of an hour and 40 minutes — the time from when Dante was last seen in public to when Bowie brought him to York Hospital lifeless. That window, during Barker's closing argument, closed to about 16 minutes, a black hole of information when Bowie didn’t send any texts or make any calls while he had Dante.

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Holt questioned the suddenness of the alleged severe violence that Barker's argument alleges.

“What could Dante have done …. that would cause my client to become a werewolf, a Jekyll and Hyde?” he asked.

Bowie’s version, shown through Holt’s case, involved Dante choking on a Teddy Graham cookie that he gave him in his car.

Prior to that, Bowie had brought Mullinix and Dante to the home where he was staying at the time. They hung out, ate burgers and watched a movie.

Mullinix announced she had a bad migraine and needed to go to the hospital for help. It was a trip she needed to take immediately, according to testimony presented at trial, although she hadn't taken Dante to the hospital for a serious genital infection for weeks.

Leah Mullinix

The three went to the hospital and dropped Mullinix off. Bowie and Dante headed back home, stopping at a nearby gas station on the way — the last place Dante was seen in public, the start of the hour and 40-minute clock.

They then went back to Bowie’s place. Bowie said he locked himself out because he couldn’t find his house key. So he and Dante hung out in his car for a while.

He and Mullinix messaged each other and chatted on a video call. Bowie noted Dante fell in the car, and he and Mullinix chatted about it.

Bowie also said Dante fell while getting out of the car and slammed his chin on the door frame.

Time wore on, heading into the 16-minute window Barker highlighted in Thursday's closing arguments.

Bowie said he decided to take Dante back to the hospital to be with Mullinix. He gave the child a Teddy Graham, he said.

As he drove along North George Street, he said, he heard a thump and saw Dante had fallen against the car door. Dante wasn’t breathing.

Bowie testified he pulled over and then pulled Dante to the driver’s seat. He said he gripped Dante’s jaw and neck with his right hand as he tried to fish the cookie out with this left.

Meanwhile, Bowie said, he did a crude CPR that blew cookie mush from Dante’s windpipe through his nose as Bowie tried chest compressions to get him breathing again.

All the while, Bowie said, he was driving south to the hospital, hitting green lights before he pulled over again around Maple Street.

He also said he was on a video call with Mullinix, telling her about the choking and the CPR.

Bowie arrived with Dante about 10:20 p.m. and handed the boy over to medical personnel.

Barker disputed Bowie’s story.

“This is one miraculous ride,” he said of the drive to the hospital.

Barker suggested the story about being locked out and hanging out in the car was false because investigators found a diaper bag in the home’s bedroom.

He said the 16-minute window was where the violence could have happened inside the house.

“Right there, 9:50 to 10:06 p.m., he’s truly isolated and alone," Barker said. "There’s no contact with anybody. It is solely two people: the defendant and Dante Mullinix. And that is more than enough time to have unleashed a deadly onslaught.”

Holt pointed out that neighbors heard nothing. Similarly, Holt said there was no evidence of violence in the home.

Doctors recorded serious bruises all over Dante’s body — fresh wounds that layered over bruises that were seen on him during previous visits by medical professionals. Bowie said he’d seen Dante's bruising for days.

The autopsy concluded that Dante died from traumatic brain injury — diffuse axonal injury — along with strangulation and suffocation. Doctors said the injury would’ve been immediate, and that Dante couldn’t have walked around for hours with it.

A medical expert for the defense supported Bowie’s story, saying Dante died from accidental choking, which cut off oxygen to his brain and caused it to swell.

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Holt alleged Mullinix caused the injuries that ultimately led to her son's death.

“I am making this case about Leah,” he said.

He accused her of neglecting Dante’s care, and said she likely caused the bruises that showed up in medical exams prior to Sept. 6.

Mullinix, 26, is also charged in the case with a felony count of child endangerment. She's expected to appear in court in January, according to court records.

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