The bodies of the three women found in the shed on an Idaho man’s farmhouse have been identified as his wife, his alleged mistress and her teenage daughter.
Michael Bullinger, 60, is wanted for the triple homicide of wife Cheryl Baker, 56, Nadja Medley, 48, and 14-year-old Payton Medley. The women’s bodies were found decomposing in a storage shed on Bullinger’s Caldwell, Idaho property in June after Baker’s family asked deputies to make a welfare check on the couple, a Canyon County Sheriff’s Office press release states.
A manhunt has been underway for Bullinger since the discovery of the victims’ bodies. Idaho police originally issued a warrant for failure to report a death but on Tuesday they announced they would be filing a warrant of arrest for three counts of first degree murder.
The victims were found each with a single gunshot wound, however, authorities could not confirm the cause of deaths at this time.
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As the manhunt continues, authorities are left with several unanswered questions, including the Medleys’ relationship to Bullinger, and what may have motivated the victims’ slayings.
“Only Mr. Bullinger knows the true motive for this heinous crimes,” Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said at a press conference on Tuesday.
However, a close friend of Medley’s says the trios’ deaths could have been a love triangle gone awry.
“It sounds like he was living a double life,” Rebecca Lorenz says.
Lorenz says Bullinger and Medley met a little more than two years ago in Odegen, Utah, where they both were living, and soon after began a serious relationship. Medley had lost her husband in 2014 to a heart attack and was raising her teenage daughter, Peyton, alone. Bullinger offered to raise Peyton as his own and when he asked Medley and her daughter to move with him to a farm in Idaho, Medley could not wait.
“As long as they had each other, they could get through anything,” Lorenz says of the couple’s tight bond. “He was a breath of fresh air, a new start and that’s what this move was, a new start.”
Bullinger, a retired pilot for a private plane company, and his new family moved to the farm in beginning of May, Lorenz says. From the beginning, Medley loved it.
“I was happy for her, she was happy,” Lorenz says. “When we texted , ‘We were just talking about how much we love living together.’”
Medley posted pictures of her new family’s life on Facebook, Lorenz said — “They were not secretive” — and even discussed marriage, although Bullinger was hesitant, she says.
Medley did not know about Bullinger’s wife, Cherly Baker, Lorenz says, despite both women living in Odegan.
According to officials, Baker, 57, and Bullinger were married for 10 years. A month before her death, Baker and Bullinger had purchased the farmhouse property together, her family told the Idaho Statesman. A Canyon County Sheriff’s spokesperson told PEOPLE at the time of the deaths, it appeared the couple was in the middle of moving from Utah to the farmhouse property.
Baker’s family claims the last time she was heard from was when she sent a friend a text that read, “Take care of my dogs. I don’t know if I’m coming back.”
When the bodies were discovered, a neighbor told the Associated Press she heard a gunshot around the time of the alleged murders. The neighbor said she also heard what she believed to be a woman screaming early in the morning sometime between June 6 and June 10. She did not call police.
Three weeks after authorities launched the investigation, Bullinger’s car was found in Wyoming, Donahue said at the press conference Tuesday. There have been alleged sightings of Bullinger in two states but none to have led to an arrest.
Officials say Bullinger should be considered armed and dangerous. He is about 6 feet 1 inches tall and weighs an estimated 240 lbs., with gray hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information about him, his location or the case is urged to call the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office at 208-454-7531.