Dante Mullinix's aunt launches second billboard critical of justice system

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Dante Mullinix's aunt, on a crusade since the death of her nephew, took out a second billboard to put local police and prosecutors on notice — alleging they failed to bring the slain boy justice.

The digital image of 2-year-old Dante Mullinix asked motorists along South Richland Avenue on Monday: “Where is my justice?”

Sarah Mullinix leased the billboard as part of her ongoing campaign to criticize the York City Police Department’s investigation of the boy’s 2018 death and what she believes was the York County District Attorney’s Office’s wrongful prosecution of a man for murder in the case.

A digital billboard, paid for by Justice for Dante supporters, is shown on South Richland Avenue in Spring Garden Township, Monday, April 3, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Mullinix hopes the message will bring more attention to Dante’s case, she said.

“He deserves full and correct justice. His abusers and killers still walk free because of half-a-- detective work,” she said Monday, pinning blame on the lead detective in the case.

Her sign is running in a rotation on a digital billboard by Lamar Advertising along South Richland Avenue, next to York Dental Health Associates, in Spring Garden Township.

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Mullinix said the plan is for the ad to run for two weeks on that billboard and then move to a Lamar digital billboard in the 2000 block of South Queen Street to run for two more weeks.

She paid $1,750 to run the signs, using funds she crowdsourced through a GoFundMe campaign earlier this year.

Dante Mullinix

This is the second time Mullinix put up a billboard relating to Dante’s death. She had also leased one along Interstate 83 last April.

York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow, speaking at the beginning of National Child Abuse Prevention month, said local law enforcement is committed to seeking justice in Dante’s case and other cases.

“Our hearts still break, and our prayers still go out to the family of that little boy, and to all the victims of child abuse,” he said in a statement. “The committed men and women who work here, in agencies like ours and the York County District Attorney's Office, will never stop trying to get that justice.”

Difficult summer: Dante died in September 2018, just shy of his third birthday, following a difficult summer while he and his mother Leah Mullinix, were largely homeless and living out of her car in York. At times, she kept her car on properties where members of the Latin Kings gang lived.

Leah Mullinix also met a man, Tyree Bowie, that summer. They formed a close relationship, and Bowie bonded with Dante as well.

Going into that September, Bowie helped Leah and Dante enter a domestic violence shelter. And during that stay, Leah was made to take her son to WellSpan York Hospital because of medical issues he was having.

A digital billboard, paid for by Justice for Dante supporters, is shown on South Richland Avenue in Spring Garden Township, Monday, April 3, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Medical staff found that Dante had a serious genital infection that had gone untreated for weeks. They also found bruises up and down his body.

But the night of Sept. 6, Dante’s life effectively came to an end.

Timeline: Bowie had agreed to babysit Dante while Leah Mullinix went to York Hospital to seek treatment for a migraine.

A couple hours later, he returned to the hospital, carrying Dante into the facility, limp and lifeless, not breathing. Doctors resuscitated the boy, but he never regained consciousness.

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He was later moved to Hershey Medical Center and placed on a ventilator for several days until he died.

An autopsy concluded the child died from traumatic brain injury and deemed the case a homicide.

Murder charge: Bowie was then charged with murder. He went to trial last December, more than four years after he was arrested.

Investigators, led by York City Police Sgt. Kyle Hower, and prosecutors alleged that Bowie beat, brutalized and strangled Dante while the two were alone together that night. They pointed to the brain injury along with new injuries and bruises on the child’s body as proof an attack could have only occurred in a narrow window of time.

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 denied striking Dante.

He said at trial they hung out together for a while that night before he decided to take Dante back to Leah at the hospital.

On the way, however, Bowie said Dante choked on a cookie and stopped breathing. He described a frantic journey where he tried to dig the cookie out of Dante’s throat and give him CPR, all while panicked and still driving south on George Street to the hospital.

His testimony also suggested Dante may have had neurological issues throughout the day, which led to him choking.

Bowie’s attorney accused Leah of being entirely responsible for the abuse and neglect Dante endured that summer, including bringing him to another man who may have also physically and sexually abused him.

A jury acquitted Bowie of all charges at the end of the four-week trial.

The verdict both exonerated Bowie and fueled Sarah Mullinix’s four-year-long advocacy that Bowie was wrongfully charged as part of an investigation that zeroed in on him instead of exploring other suspects.

Mother charged: Leah Mullinix was charged with felony child endangerment in the case, accusing her of failing to seek medical treatment for Dante, and for leaving him in Bowie’s care.

She pleaded guilty to the count Jan. 18.

Leah Mullinix

Between Bowie’s acquittal and Leah’s plea, Sarah Mullinix and supporters of her Facebook page, Justice for Dante, became outspoken critics of District Attorney David Sunday and the police department.

That included ongoing trolling of the D.A. office’s Facebook posts.

Sarah Mullinix also decided to go back to a tactic she used last year, and she began working to lease space on a billboard.

Blaming CYF: Her first billboard went up in April 2022, shortly before Bowie’s previous trial date — the case was scheduled to start last May, but it was pushed back for different reasons.

A billboard leased by Sarah Mullinix refers to the death of her nephew, Dante Mullinix, in this file photo from April 2022.

The ad Mullinix took out blamed York County Children Youth and Families for failing to heed complaints about Dante’s welfare in the weeks leading up to his death. It ran for about a month on a rotating digital Trone Outdoor Advertising sign along I-83 near Emigsville.

Mullinix reached out to Trone again around February after raising funds through the GoFundMe campaign. The site shows she reached her $2,000 goal.

The company didn’t approve her initial ideas to satirize police and prosecutors, she said.

She switched and began working with Lamar Advertising, and they agreed on the design and message that began running Monday.

Mullinix was grateful for the donors who helped her lease the new billboard, saying she thanks, “everyone for all the support and for showing them Dante’s life really mattered and still matters.”

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Waiting to be sentenced: Leah Mullinix is scheduled to be sentenced June 12 in her child endangerment case.

Court documents indicate she’s still awaiting a mental health evaluation as part of pre-sentencing matters.

Her attorney and prosecutors also sought access to CYF records related to Dante ahead of the sentencing hearing, court documents show.

York County Court of Common Pleas Judge Amber Kraft ordered March 21 she would review the records and release those she finds relevant to the sentencing to attorneys. The documents remain otherwise confidential, the order shows.

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