In the months leading up to the killings of 48-year-old Nadja Medley and her 14-year-old daughter, Payton, everything seemed to be going their way.
They had moved in with Medley’s boyfriend of more than two years, Gerald “Mike” Bullinger, on a new property he had purchased in Caldwell, Idaho, and the trio looked like a happy family.
But the life that Medley and Payton were planning came to a violent end last June after Bullinger’s wife of 10 years, 56-year-old Cheryl Baker, apparently discovered what was going on at their Idaho home — which she and Bullinger had in fact bought together.
The exact details of the confrontation may never be known, investigators tell PEOPLE, but whatever happened left Baker, Medley and Payton all dead — and Bullinger on the run. He is wanted for homicide and failure to report a death in all three killings, according to authorities.
“This was a crime of passion or spur of the moment crime,” says Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue.
The bodies of Baker, Medley and Payton were discovered on June 19, 2017, under a tarp inside a shed on Bullinger’s five-acre Caldwell property. They had been dead for 10-12 days, each fatally shot in the head.
Bullinger was nowhere to be found.
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As authorities began to investigate, it became clear that Bullinger, a corporate pilot, had successfully lived a double life for more than two years before the triple homicide shattered his lies.
While both Baker and Medley lived in Ogden, Utah, neither knew of the other, according to Baker’s family and Medley’s friends.
When Medley met Bullinger, she was a a widowed single mother, having lost not only her husband but also a child shortly after giving birth years before. She was working as a massage therapist when he swept her off her feet, says friend Rebecca Lorenz.
“Mike was the first time I saw her smile, and she just had a glow constantly,” Lorenz says. “She was truly happy.”
But as Bullinger was wooing Medley, he didn’t appear to be pulling away from Baker. Her relatives recall him as a supportive husband who would spend holidays with the in-laws or take his family on outdoor adventure trips.
“She just thought her marriage was perfect,” says Baker’s brother Lyle.
The truth was revealed last summer, when Bullinger’s lives collided in Idaho where both Baker and Medley had been promised a new life in the country.
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More than a year later, with Bullinger still at-large, the victims’ loved ones are left full of questions and anger, grappling with the loss of an excited mother, an ambitious teen and a loving teacher.
“I still don’t understand it. I don’t know what his plan could have been. He had a girlfriend on the side and he was married,” Baker’s brother Byron tells PEOPLE.
“Just pick one and tell the other to go home,” he says. “You don’t kill them.”
Bullinger is officially still on the run and the manhunt for him continues. But Sheriff Donahue says he believes the 60-year-old is dead of either suicide or from exposure after fleeing into the Wyoming woods, where his car was found last year.
“He could be out there,” Donahue says, “and that’s why we work it every day. He’s a danger to society.”
Bullinger is approximately 6-feet-1-inches tall and weighs 240 lbs., with gray hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about him or the case is urged to call the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office at 208-454-7531.
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