'It's a lot. I miss him': Bowie visits Dante's grave following acquittal
The start of the new year saw a somber reunion of sorts for Tyree Bowie and Dante Mullinix as the York City man visited the child’s grave for the first time.
Bowie, his attorney and a group of about 15 friends and supporters — people who backed him and mourned the 2-year-old boy — gathered at Mount Rose Cemetery in Spring Garden Township on Monday to pay their respects at Dante’s grave marker.
The visit came after a jury acquitted Bowie of murder and child endangerment charges Friday. The verdict led to his release from York County Prison for the first time since his arrest in September 2018 as the suspect in Dante’s death that month.
“It’s just, like, emotions are just too through the roof right now,” Bowie said as he stood at the little boy’s marker.
He put into words some of what he misses about Dante.
“Just how he would keep saying ‘Yeah’ whenever he saw me, and put his hand up every time he gets out my car for me to hold his hand. … Just even trying to teach him how to talk and he tries his best to say the words and he just can’t,” Bowie said. “It’s a lot. I miss him, being around him, the hugs, the kisses. It’s a lot.”
He and his attorney, Farley Holt, placed flowers at the site, joining a teddy bear, a package of toy cars and other items that were left there apparently over the weekend.
The marker, which includes the message “We will always love you ‘Monkey Man,’” was placed at the boy's grave in early 2019, Dante’s aunt, Sarah Mullinix, estimated.
She said a friend paid for the plaque.
Investigators alleged the 43-year-old Bowie beat and brutalized Dante while the two were alone the night of Sept. 6, 2018. Dante died nine days later at Hershey Medical Center.
At trial, prosecutors described severe injuries that were found on the boy’s body. They pointed to an autopsy conclusion that traumatic brain injury, strangulation and suffocation were the cause of death.
Bowie told police, and later the trial jury, that Dante choked on a cookie.
He babysat Dante for a couple of hours while the boy’s mother, Leah Mullinix, waited at WellSpan York Hospital to be seen for a migraine.
As the two went back to the hospital that night, Bowie said he gave Dante a Teddy Graham, and that Dante choked on it during the drive.
Bowie said pulled the child to the driver’s seat with him, tried to dig the cookie out of his throat, and gave him CPR and chest compressions while driving. But Dante stopped breathing and went limp.
Bowie brought him into the hospital’s emergency department. Doctors were able to get Dante breathing again, but he didn’t regain consciousness.
A defense expert gave a competing opinion about the autopsy, saying Dante died from accidental choking that cut off oxygen to his brain.
Holt said Monday that Bowie was framed.
“We have to be his voice,” Holt said. “It’s up to all of us to carry on so (Dante) didn’t die in vain. And those who are responsible will be brought to justice.”
At trial, he put the responsibility of Dante’s death on Mullinix, alleging she beat and neglected her son for weeks.
Medical personnel testified they recorded several bruises on Dante and that he had a seriously inflamed and untreated genital infection a few days before Sept. 6.
Prosecutors insisted new injuries seen at the hospital were severe, and the brain injury would have been from the time Bowie was babysitting Dante.
The jury disagreed. They voted to acquit Bowie on Friday after two hours of deliberations, ending the four-week trial.
Holt vowed to press on.
“It’s been a long time coming for justice for Dante. But the fight’s not over; it’s just begun,” he said.
In the meantime, free for the first time for years, Bowie said he has to get his life back on track. That includes renewing his ID, finding a job and reclaiming his car after police impounded it as part of the investigation.
“I don’t know how that’s going to work out,” he said of his car.
Mullinix is also charged in the case, facing a felony count of endangering the welfare of a child.
She’s next due in court for a hearing on Jan. 18.
— Reach Aimee Ambrose at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.