Tyree Bowie sobs as jury acquits him of murder in Dante Mullinix's death
The crying began before the jury returned to the courtroom.
Family, friends and supporters of Tyree Bowie sniffled in the gallery seats behind the defense table as a nervous, anxious energy filled the room Friday morning.
Then the jury filed in and took their seats.
When asked, the jury representative spoke three times, once for each charge Bowie faced in the 2018 death of 2-year-old Dante Mullinix: “Not guilty.”
In spite of a warning against outbursts, supporters gasped and cried out.
Bowie, though, sobbed on attorney Farley Holt’s shoulder. Holt hugged him and wept.
For the first time in more than four years, Bowie will be a free man. He was expected to leave York County Prison in Springettsbury Township at about 2 p.m. Friday.
The jury deliberated for about two hours before returning their verdicts, finding Bowie not guilty of first- and third-degree murder, and not guilty of endangering the welfare of a child.
“They did the right thing. They saw through the smoke and mirrors. Finally, finally, Dante’s gotten some justice. And it starts today. And it’s not over yet either,” Holt said.
By “not over yet,” he elaborated that with Bowie acquitted, he hoped the real culprits in the boy’s death would now be brought to justice. Holt pinned responsibility on Dante’s mother, Leah Mullinix, during his closing arguments Thursday.
Holt also said the jury was the best jury he’s ever had as an attorney, and it was amazing that they stuck out the case as long as they did.
“I never had a doubt that Tyree was innocent,” he said.
The prosecution said little after the trial.
“Glory to God in the highest. That is all,” said First Assistant District Attorney Tim Barker, the office’s lead litigator on the case.
Police accused Bowie, 43, of savagely beating Dante while they were alone together on the night of Sept. 6, 2018.
Prosecutors argued medical evidence showed the boy was “bludgeoned” with punches and kicks, strangled, suffocated and bitten on the arm, as well as having his chest crushed and being slammed to the ground on his back.
The injuries, they argued, caused significant brain damage, which killed Dante.
Holt disputed the allegations and argued that Bowie tried to save Dante from choking. Bowie insisted he “would never harm” the toddler.
In testimony, Bowie described how he met Mullinix and Dante that August while she was essentially homeless, largely living out of her car in York City.
Bowie and Mullinix developed a close relationship, somewhere apparently between friendship and romance. He also described having a paternal affection for Dante.
From the day they met, though, Bowie said he noticed bruises on Dante. The boy was also hurting from an untreated genital infection. Bowie testified that Mullinix had blamed another man she knew at the time, a man who had threatened her.
By the end of August 2018, Bowie helped Mullinix and Dante get into a domestic violence shelter downtown. The boy’s infection persisted, causing him to cry frequently at night, according to trial testimony.
Shelter staff insisted Mullinix get medical treatment for Dante. The situation led to York County Children, Youth and Families staff intervening that week — but the shelter’s complaint followed several other complaints made about Dante’s condition over the weeks prior.
Medical staff initially prescribed antibiotics, believing Dante had balanitis. Investigators would later learn the 2-year-old had genital herpes.
Neither Mullinix nor Bowie had herpes.
Mullinix testified she thought Dante was feeling down from his infection on Sept. 6, the last day Dante would be conscious. She and Dante hung out with Bowie that day and into the evening until Mullinix said she had a worsening migraine and needed to go to the hospital.
Holt, in his closing argument, pointed to Bowie’s testimony that before the trip, while he was in the bathroom, he heard a thud and a whimper. When he went out, he said he saw Mullinix put something away while Dante posed.
Holt alleged Mullinix may have struck Dante and then put makeup on him to cover up bruises up. Bowie alleged that applying makeup to her son was a pattern she repeated.
Bowie took Mullinix to the hospital, then drove Dante back to his place, stopping at a gas station first. There, he said, Dante passed out in the back seat but was otherwise OK.
Since he locked himself out of his place, Bowie testified, he and the boy hung out in his car for about an hour on a warm, humid night. He then decided to drive Dante back to the hospital and fed him a cookie on the way.
But Dante choked and stopped breathing, Bowie said.
He described a frantic drive down George Street to the hospital in which he pulled Dante onto his lap in the driver’s seat and attempted crude CPR and chest compression while he drove through downtown.
Bowie arrived at York Hospital around 10:20 p.m. and brought Dante, limp and lifeless, into the emergency department.
Medical staff got Dante breathing again, but they noticed a series of new bruises and injuries on Dante’s body — injuries that were on top of numerous other bruises seen on the boy in his previous medical visits that week.
Dante was later flown to Hershey Medical Center and stayed on a ventilator while his brain swelled and collapsed on itself. He died Sept. 15, nine days later.
An autopsy concluded Dante died from traumatic brain injury along with strangulation and suffocation.
Barker, the prosecutor, contested Bowie’s story, pointing to several inconsistencies and changes across his two police interviews in 2018 and his testimony at trial.
He said the injuries were so severe that they would have been immediate and could only have occurred in the time period, basically a 16-minute window, when Dante was alone with Bowie.
A medical expert for Holt’s defense gave an opinion that Dante died from accidental choking and a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Bowie was arrested and charged Sept. 19, 2018, one day after the autopsy results were released.
He has been in York County Prison for the past four years, waiting for his trial in December.
Jury selection began Dec. 5, and the case ran through four workweeks, or 17 total days.
About 30 witnesses were called, and about 300 exhibits were presented.
Mullinix is also charged in the case, facing a felony count of endangering the welfare of a child. Her next hearing is scheduled for January.