Elsewhere in Utah, another woman was planning the same move. Cheryl Baker, Bullinger’s wife of 10 years, was also packing up her home to move to the Idaho house, which she and Bullinger had purchased that month.
One month later, both women and the teenager would be presumed dead.
On June 19, police in Caldwell, Idaho, received a safety-check phone call from one of Bullinger’s relatives who had been unable to reach the 60-year-old or his family for days. At Bullinger’s newly purchased home, police discovered a gruesome scene: three bodies so badly decomposed that police could not immediately identify their ages or genders. Each appeared to have been killed with a single gunshot. Investigators later determined the victims to have been two women and a teenage girl, although their names have yet to be announced.
Bullinger, whom police have named as a person of interest in the slayings, has not been seen since June 12. Police say he is armed and dangerous.
Those who knew Cheryl Baker, Nadja Medley, or Nadja’s 14-year-old daughter, Payton, aren’t just heartbroken; they’re confused. Baker and Bullinger had lived together in Utah for 17 years, and enjoyed an apparently happy marriage, a neighbor told a local Fox affiliate. Nadja and Bullinger had dated for two years, and Payton reportedly called Bullinger “dad.”
But the two families’ lives appeared completely separate until Bullinger, Baker, and the Medleys all moved to Idaho together in May.
“Ok folks, I have some news,” Nadja wrote in a March 2016 Facebook post. “Mike asked Payton and myself to move to Boise with him once his new job is stable and he’s settled in a bit. It’s not an immediate thing, but we’re working on getting the house in order and things settled.”
She spent the rest of last year posting cheery updates from her family: on a road trip with Bullinger and her daughter; the three of them at a baseball game; watching fireworks as a family on the Fourth of July. Baker appears nowhere in the posts.
A close friend told Idaho’s KTVB that all Nadja’s friends assumed Bullinger was unmarried.
“It hit us as a shock that he was married because we had no idea,” friend Michelle Holbrook told the station, when details of Bullinger’s life emerged after the murders. But Baker’s and the Medleys’ lives were moving on a collision course. On May 3, 2017, Baker and Bullinger bought their Idaho house together, according to county property records. Nadja had alluded to the home in a March 2017 post, again without reference to Baker. “WE’RE MOVING,” she wrote. “That’s right. A new home has been found, and Mike, Payton Medley and I are moving in together. Boise, here we come!”
A real-estate listing for the home described it as a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house on five acres with pastures, corrals, and “no rear neighbors.”
The day the sale closed, Nadja wrote that her move was finally underway.
“Well, we’re on our way to Boise. Dogs, cats, bunnies, chickens, fish, birds, snake and people,” Nadja posted on May 3. “One helluva packing adventure!”
She and Baker shared a love for animals. Baker and Bullinger were always “outside with their dogs,” their former neighbor told the Utah Fox affiliate. Days after her arrival at the Idaho home, Nadja posted a Facebook video of the property. Flowers bloomed in the acres of empty fields, while a dog chewed grass at her feet.
“Dogs are the only thing that’s grazing now, but that will change,” she said, mentioning future pastures she hoped to build. “We’re loving it.”
When police arrived at the house on June 19, they found the bodies of birds and dogs alongside those of the three human victims. A snake and some rabbits survived. The women had been dead for one to two weeks before their bodies were discovered, police said.
June 8 was the last the Medleys’ friends heard from them, KTVB reported. Nothing seemed unusual with Nadja that day, her friend told the station. Baker even invited a friend to visit their new home. “Come visit me in Idaho at our new place,” she told a friend, according to KTVB. Payton’s best friend told the station that they talked “constantly,” but that Payton suddenly stopped answering Snapchats that day.
Another one of Baker’s friends received a cryptic text message around the same time, Baker’s brother told the Idaho Statesman. “Take care of my dogs. I don’t know if I’m coming back,” the message read. Baker’s brother has begun to wonder if someone else sent the text.
Bullinger’s whereabouts are equally mysterious. Although police are now conducting a multistate search for him, he is still not an official suspect, but a “person of interest for failing to report three deaths on his property,” police say.
Though none of the three victims’ names have been confirmed, the Medleys’ Facebook pages have already been converted to “memorial” pages, reserved for the deceased.
Nadja’s second-to-last Facebook post is a picture of her daughter in their new kitchen, in front of the same lace curtains from the real-estate listing, which had promised a new life just months before. In the June 3 photo, Payton had painted her face for LGBT Pride Month. She wore rainbows on her cheeks, and appeared mid-laugh as her mother took the photo.
On Facebook, Nadja captioned the picture with heart emojis.
“Love this kid to death,” she wrote.