Aunt looks to lease new billboard as Dante Mullinix's mother goes to court

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

As the mother of Dante Mullinix returns to court in her son’s death, her sister plans to put up a billboard critical of the York County District Attorney's Office.

Leah Mullinix, 26, is set to take her turn facing a York County judge on Wednesday. The hearing would come nearly a month after a jury found Tyree Bowie, the man charged with killing 2-year-old Dante in September 2018, not guilty of murder and child endangerment charges.

Mullinix testified against Bowie as a prosecution witness during the four-week trial in December.

In this photo from April 2022, a billboard leased by Sarah Mullinix of Adams County refers to the death of her 2-year-old nephew, Dante Mullinix, in September 2018.

She’s now up as a defendant, charged with a felony count of endangering the welfare of a child.

At Bowie's trial, she said the charge was filed in 2019 because she left Dante in Bowie’s care the night he brought the boy to WellSpan York Hospital unconscious and not breathing.

According to her testimony, the charge also relates to how she had ignored her son’s genital infection, which was later discovered to be herpes.

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Mullinix told the jury she wasn’t offered anything or promised anything specific for her testimony but that she hoped for leniency.

Sarah Mullinix, of Adams County, has advocated for justice for Dante since his death in 2018. She has insisted investigators incorrectly focused on Bowie instead of pursuing evidence related to those she held as primarily responsible — including her sister.

Leah Mullinix

Galvanized by Bowie's acquittal, Sarah Mullinix and supporters on her “Justice For Dante” Facebook page have taken to openly criticizing York County District Attorney Dave Sunday.

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'Not doing his job': Group members trolled several posts on the DA’s office Facebook page this month with comments criticizing the investigation into Dante’s death and the Bowie prosecution. They’ve also mocked recent arrests by questioning whether investigators arrested the right suspect, an allusion to views that Bowie was wrongly arrested.

“He’s not doing his job,” Sarah Mullinix said of Sunday in an interview. “What’s the point of being a district attorney if you don’t do your job.”

The DA’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the campaign Tuesday.

Billboard planned: Sarah Mullinix launched a GoFundMe campaign last week to raise money toward leasing a new billboard. She said the sign would specifically feature Sunday and serve as a complaint about his handling of criminal cases.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign raised $320 of a $2,000 goal, the GoFundMe page shows.

Sarah Mullinix said the billboard is going up, even if the fundraiser doesn’t reach its goal. She said she will use money from other sources, if necessary, though she wasn’t sure yet what those would be.

“It’s going to happen one way or another,” she said. “But I’m definitely doing it.”

She plans to lease the sign sometime in February. The cost for it will be about $1,500 to run for a month, thanks to a small discount she said she expects to receive.

Dante Mullinix

Not the first: The planned billboard would be the woman's second over the past year as part of her cause.

She leased time on a rotating digital billboard beginning in late April 2022, days before Bowie was initially set to stand trial.

That sign ran for a month along Interstate 83 near Emigsville with a message that blamed York County Children, Youth and Families for Dante’s death. Sarah Mullinix alleged the agency ignored multiple complaints about her nephew’s welfare while he was with his mother that summer.

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Bowie’s trial was then delayed until December because of concerns over pretrial publicity as well as other factors.

Homicide case: In the homicide case, prosecutors accused Bowie of beating and brutalizing Dante, causing severe injuries, during a narrow window of time that they were alone together the night of Sept. 6, 2018.

They pointed to autopsy results that found brain trauma, along with strangulation and suffocation, caused the boy’s death.

Bowie denied the allegations.

He told police, and testified at trial, that Dante choked on a cookie while babysitting him for Leah Mullinix so she could go to the hospital for a migraine the night of Sept. 6.

The 43-year-old Bowie said he and Dante hung out at his place for about an hour before he decided to drive him back to Mullinix at the hospital. As they left, he gave the child a Teddy Graham as a snack.

Tyree Bowie, of York City, during an interview at The York Dispatch in West Manchester Township, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Bowie said he noticed Dante choking in the back seat while they were on North George Street, a little north of downtown. He then pulled the boy to the driver’s seat and, according to the testimony, tried to dig the cookie out of his throat and give him CPR while rushing to the hospital.

Security camera video showed Bowie pulling up to the emergency department and carrying Dante inside as Leah Mullinix met them outside.

Doctors intubated Dante and restarted his breathing, but the boy didn’t regain consciousness. He died nine days later.

A competing medical opinion for the defense argued Dante died from choking, which cut off oxygen to his brain and caused it to swell.

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New bruises were documented on the boy’s body the night he was rushed to the hospital , joining those seen by medical staff earlier that week when Leah Mullinix was told to seek treatment for Dante's infection.

Bowie was not accused of inflicting the prior bruises. Testimony pointed to another man as responsible, while Bowie’s attorney also accused the boy's mother of causing much of the abuse and neglect.

Bowie was acquitted by the jury on Dec. 30, and then released from York County Prison a few hours later. He spent more than four years in jail awaiting the trial.

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