'It took four years of my life': Tyree Bowie released from jail to cheers, hugs

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Tyree Bowie intends to take legal action for the four years and four months he spent locked up and charged with murder in the death of a 2-year-old boy.

But first, he has more immediate goals.

“Going to see my kids, spend time with my friends, family,” Bowie said outside York County Prison on Friday evening.

Tyree Bowie sobs as jury acquits him of murder in Dante Mullinix's death

He walked out of the facility around 6:30 p.m. Friday, then ran to the arms of his mother and lawyer as a crowd of at least 50 people cheered from the parking lot.

Hugs from family came next, followed by a barrage of even more hugs for Bowie from friends, supporters and well-wishers — several of whom didn’t know him personally but came to believe he was innocent as he headed to trial in December.

Hundreds more people watched his release from a Facebook Live feed that Bowie’s longtime friend Laci Peiffer shot from her phone.

“Thank you, man, for everybody that supported me. Been a long road. It took four years of my life. I’m about to get that back, though,” Bowie said amid hugs.

Farley Holt, on left, getting a hug from his client Tyree Bowie, on right, just after he had walked out of York County Jail in Springettsbury on Friday, Dec. 30, 2022.

His release came about four hours after a jury found him not guilty of murder and child endangerment charges at the end of a four-week trial.

Prosecutors and police accused Bowie, 43, of beating and severely injuring 2-year-old Dante Mullinix while the two were alone together the night of Sept. 6, 2018.

He was babysitting Dante at the time after taking the child’s mother, Leah Mullinix, to York Hospital so she could be treated for a migraine.

Prosecutors said Bowie “bludgeoned” and strangled the boy, inflicting a slew of injuries. They argued the violence had to have occurred sometime in the hour and 40 minutes between when they were seen together at a gas station and when Bowie drove Dante back to the hospital for emergency treatment.

Dante Mullinix

An autopsy found Dante died from a traumatic brain injury along with strangulation and suffocation. The forensic pathologist said the effects of such an injury would have been immediate.

A defense expert challenged the finding with an opinion that Dante died from accidental choking, which cut off oxygen to his brain.

Bowie insisted that he gave Dante a cookie as the two drove back to the hospital to see Mullinix.

But, he said, the boy choked on the cookie on North George Street. He said he pulled Dante to his lap in the driver’s seat, gave him CPR and tried to resuscitate him while also continuing to drive to the hospital.

Emergency staff restarted Dante’s breathing, but he never regained consciousness. He died nine days later at Hershey Medical Center.

Bowie’s attorney, Farley Holt, alleged at trial that Mullinix was responsible for Dante’s injuries along with ongoing abuse and neglect.

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

Speaking outside the prison, Bowie said his incarceration since Sept. 19, 2018, was wrong.

“I mean, from day one it was wrong. It took me away from my family, my kids, for something I didn’t do,” he said.

Bowie has seven children. Dante was not his child, though trial testimony showed he felt a paternal affection for him.

When asked if he thinks he’ll take legal action over the investigation that led to the charges against him, he said, “Of course.”

As far as what he’s considering: “I mean, if I would’ve lost, they wanted the max, right. … Same situation. They lost, so I want the max.”

But when asked what the max means, he said, “We’ll discuss that.”

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Peiffer expressed incredible relief at seeing Bowie free.

She was at the trial since the first day, both inside and outside the courtroom. She testified as a witness, which kept her out of the courtroom until she was called.

After that, she sat with family and supporters who packed the gallery throughout the trial’s four weeks.

Peiffer never wavered in her conviction.

“I knew that Tyree would never do that to a child. I knew before this even happened. He talked to me — the one and only time he ever talked to me about Leah and Dante — I knew from that conversation he was innocent,” she said. “I knew Tyree would never do something like that. Ever.”

Mullinix's sister, Sarah Mullinix, called for accountability in the case.

"Prosecution and law enforcement need to pick up and charge the real perps," she said. "[Children, Youth and Families] caseworkers need charged too."

Sarah Mulllinix has been a vocal advocate for her nephew as well as of Bowie's innocence, largely through her Facebook page, "Justice For Dante." She has been critical of the police investigation and of CYF, alleging the agency's inaction on complaints about Dante's welfare for weeks contributed to his death.

A billboard leased by Sarah Mullinix refers to the death of her 2-year-old nephew, Dante, in September 2018.

She leased a billboard in April that publicly blamed the office of York County Children, Youth and Families.

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Bowie thanked people for the support he received from people he knows, people he doesn’t know, inmates he was with, and prison officers and staff.

“It meant a lot. That helped me get through it, and that helped me keep fighting because I have people that don’t even know me fighting for me,” he said. “It helped me from not wanting to give up. There was a lot of days I wanted to give up. … But [I] can’t give up.”

Leah Mullinix

Leah Mullinix, 26, is also charged in the case with a felony count of endangering the welfare of a child.

Her next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 18.

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