When Gerald 'Mike' Bullinger’s Secret Lives Intersected, The Result Was Deadly
Gerald Michael Bullinger seemed to be a loving, doting boyfriend who wanted his family to have it all. No one but Bullinger knew it was all a ruse. He was living a double life, and when he was finally exposed, everyone in his path was taken out.
OGDEN, UT — Nadja Medley, 44, lived for her teenaged daughter Payton and only wanted the best for her child. Medley was doing everything she could to make ends meet and provide for her daughter, especially after her husband died of a heart attack 2014.
Payton’s friend Sydney Call opened up to In Pursuit, sharing, “Payton was the most kindhearted girl that I have ever met. She was so sweet, she wore her heart on her sleeve, and she had the brightest smile — she lit up anybody’s day.” As for Medley and Payton, “They were super, super close. They were friends just as much as mother and daughter,” Call adds.
Medley's friend Michelle Holbrook tells In Pursuit, “Nadja was a massage therapist. She was also into healing things. I know that she [sold] kombucha teas; she was very earthy.” One day in 2015, Medley's life would change forever when Gerald Michael Bullinger, a striking man, walked in for a massage. He had a presence; a great personality, and he was someone Medley was attracted to instantly.
Bullinger seemed to have his life together. He was working as a private pilot for clients and flying all around the country for work. The best part for Medley? Bullinger was single, or so she thought. Bullinger claimed to be a divorcée of 10 years and a Mormon from Montana. Medley had no idea at the time this was the furthest thing from the truth.
The attraction between Bullinger and Medley was undeniable, and not only did the chemistry grow between them, but so did the relationship. As time marched on, Bullinger went out of his way to take Medley and her daughter to dinner, on hikes, and any other events they could share together and make new memories.
Holbrook says, “He just made her feel great. He made her feel beautiful, he made her feel happy, he made her feel loved. And he spoiled her. Every time I turn around, there’s another picture on her Facebook about a rodeo or a concert or a hike….” Holbrook says. “After she met Mike, you just saw that living spark come back in her.”
Although Bullinger was gone a lot, sometimes for weeks on end for work, the love between him and Medley became stronger and stronger. So strong in fact, he wanted to move the mother and daughter to a new ranch he purchased in Caldwell, Idaho. Bullinger wanted to make their life permanent, and she was on board for the open fields, horses, dogs, rabbits, and much more.
Call tells In Pursuit, “Payton love, love, loved animals. She had quite a few pets. They had a snake, lizards, Guinea pigs, goats, rabbits. You name it, they probably had it at one point.”
NEW HOME, NEW ROUTINE
“Nadja was very excited. She threw herself into the work that they were doing at the house – putting up fences, building pens, coops, rabbit runs. She was leaving all the pain, all the stress that she had in Utah,” Call remembers. It was a dream come true.
On the weekend of June 9, 2017, Medley was supposed to make the trip back to Utah to pick up her horses, but she never showed. Not only did she not make it, but she wasn’t accepting or returning calls, Holbrook remembers.
Call says the last time she heard from Payton was June 6, 2017 over text. It was if the family disappeared, and no one had any idea what happened.
Call remembers, “We started to get more and more worried. And so, my mom made a house call or a home check.” Tammy Call reached out to dispatch in the area and sent investigators over to the house. In a dispatch tape, she can be heard saying, “Nadja Medley. My daughter’s really good friends with her daughter, and there’s been no correspondence for the last 10 days. We’re just a little bit concerned.”
DEPUTIES ARRIVE ON THE PROPERTY
Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donohue tells In Pursuit that when a deputy arrived on location, “He could smell a foul odor coming from the shed. And then a large number of flies in the area. He then opens the door, can see through the door that there’s a blue tarp over something, and makes entry.” When the deputy moves in a little closer, according to the sheriff, he realizes they had multiple dead bodies.
As more investigators arrived on the scene, they found the bodies of three people and three dogs — all had been murdered.
Donahue adds, “Once we got into the shed and removed the tarp, then we realized the enormity of what we were facing. We were at the top of summer; it’s very hot. It’s a very closed-in area, and so the decomposition is a little bit rapid, and they were in very, very poor condition, to the point where – unrecognizable, if you will.”
Initially investigators said it was hard to determine the sex or race of the victims or even how they died. As the investigation continued, Sheriff Donahue and his team were able to determine that each victim and all three dogs had been shot execution-style to the head.
Call remembers being told, “They told us there was three bodies. And me and my mom assumed it was Payton, Nadja, and Mike. We weren’t told until the press release that it was three female bodies that were found on the property. We didn’t know who the third person could have been.”
The other woman turned out to be Cheryl Baker, also of Ogden, Utah. Baker was not known to any of Medley’s family or friends. She was a 56-year-old teacher who worked with deaf children. She didn’t have an enemy, and by all accounts was a faithful and loving person.
Holbrook remembers hearing news reports stating that Baker was the wife of Gerald Michael Bullinger, and that he was considered a person of interest in the case. “I thought they had it wrong. I actually messaged the news channel and said, ‘I think you’re mistaken. He wasn’t married,’” Holbrook adds.
UNCOVERING THE LIES
It turns out that Baker and Bullinger had been married for seven full years until she was found dead. Baker’s friend Nancy Powers spoke to In Pursuit about the relationship. “She and Mike met on an airplane. And I think Mike was sitting next to her; they talked for a long time and evidently exchanged phone numbers.”
“Cheryl was a compassionate person, and it showed in everything she did. I think a good example is the career she chose.” Powers adds.
From what investigators can gather, Baker and Bullinger were married for five years before he met and also began dating Medley. Bullinger was apparently able to pull off the double life because the home he shared with Baker was eight miles away from Medley's.
Holbrook says, “I can’t wrap my head around it. He put a lot of effort into keeping them apart for two years, and she (Nadja) was posting stuff all over social media.”
Authorities also learned that while Medley and Bullinger attempted to purchase the property in Idaho, they couldn’t actually get the financing. So he had his wife make the purchase and told her this would be their retirement home. The property in Idaho wasn’t even in Bullinger’s name — Baker bought it solo, investigators add.
Bullinger thought he could pull off the ultimate double life, but it didn’t work. Authorities say Baker made a surprise trip to the property in June 2017 and everything likely unraveled from that point. Canyon County Sheriff Sergeant Charles Gentry says, “I don’t believe that Cheryl had been to this property before, and that she wanted to come here and see it.”
As for the next order of events, investigators say they are unsure of exactly how it went down or the exact time, but they know for certain it did not end well.
“What happened between Mr. Bullinger and his wife, Cheryl, and Nadja? Was there, ‘What the heck are you doing here?’” Only Mr. Bullinger at this point knows what actually took place there. You had this catalyst that happened, this cataclysmic event that, all of a sudden, these people find out about each other.” Donahue believes there was then, “panic, rage, fury, whatever that emotion that triggered him to pull the trigger. It was then that cascading effect. Once you’ve killed someone, there’s no way back.”
Investigators know Baker arrived in the Caldwell area on June 8, 2017. Donahue says, “Based on the estimation by the coroner, we believe that the murder took place on either June 8 or June 9.”
BULLINGER HAS A HEAD START
Bullinger is believed to be armed and dangerous. “He has shown a propensity to commit the ultimate crime — murder — times three,” Donahue adds. He goes on to say Bullinger had a 10-day head start.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Travis Humkey immediately got involved with the case, and they know Bullinger stayed in Idaho at least for 24 hours. “The next morning on June 10, Bullinger goes to breakfast in Nampa, Idaho, the next town over,” Humkey says.
It wasn’t long after that breakfast that Bullinger made his way back to Utah, where he picked up Baker’s car at the dealership where it was being serviced. Authorities say Bullinger dumped his truck and took her car in an effort to throw off law enforcement.
On June 11, according to authorities, Bullinger was seen on video entering the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. It is the last location law enforcement was able to track him. Baker’s car was later discovered abandoned at a campsite. At this point, Bullinger could have hitchhiked out of the area and could be hiding out anywhere.
“When I lost Payton, it wasn’t just losing a best friend. It was losing part of my family and it was losing part of myself. I can’t get her voice out of my head,” Call says.
“Mike took my dear friend…. You know I miss Cheryl. I can’t call her. I can’t see her at book club and, he took … he took all of that away,” Powers says.
Holbrook says, “Not that answers are going to make anything better. But I need to know why. Why did he have to do this? You know, why couldn’t he just walk away? Why did these wonderful women have to die?”
The Idaho Statesman spoke to Bullinger’s first wife, Jacqui Garcia, and others who knew him. Their reporting indicates that Bullinger has a long history of lying, manipulating, infidelity, and violence. Garcia told the publication that at one point she even feared Bullinger would kill her.
Christine Roppel, a close friend of the Melodys, also spoke out: “People have said he probably went out into the woods and shot himself. I think he’s too egotistical for that.”
Investigators are keeping all options and possibilities open. Bullinger could be working as a pilot and may be living somewhere outdoors.
TRAITS & CHARACTERISTICS:
- Weight: 240 pounds
- Height: 6 feet 1 inches
- Sex: Male
- Race: Caucasian
- Hair: Grey
- Eyes: Brown
- Current age: 61
- Date of birth: April 6, 1957
- Location of crime: Caldwell, Idaho
- Date of crime: June 8 or 9, 2017
- Enjoys spending time outdoors
- Was a pilot and has traveled extensively
- Known to wear glasses sometimes
- Familiar with the western U.S. and Alaska
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For more on this case, watch the “Deadly Double Life” episode of In Pursuit With John Walsh on Wednesday, February 20at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery! Or catch up on ID GO.