WYALUSING – Days after one of Bradford County’s deadliest shootings in history, the Wyalusing community is mourning the loss of a vital business and, more importantly, the tragic loss of life.
The bodies of four people, Edwin Bidlack, 54, Candy Bidlack, 60, Johnnie Johnson, 48, and Jesse Northrup, 31, were discovered at the Bidlack’s family residence on Gooseneck Road in Terry Township, just across the bridge from the Wyalusing High School, on Friday. It is believed by Pennsylvania State Police that Northrup shot and killed the Bidlacks and Johnson before turning the gun on himself that day.
Northrup was the son of Candy and stepson of Edwin. Johnson was employed by Edwin and lived at the home during the week so he could be on call for heating emergencies, according to those with knowledge of the living arrangements.
“The town is in mourning,” Wyalusing Borough Mayor Suky Burgess said. “They were good people.”
Edwin Bidlack owned a heating company, Bidlack Heating Co., that employed Johnson and was well respected in the community, according to Burgess and her husband Dave. The business had been running for more than 20 years and operated out of Bidlack’s garage.
“They were hard workers,” Dave said of Edwin and Johnnie. “They conducted themselves professionally. ... They’re going to be missed in the area.”
Suky added that Ed was integral to the community and could be called on at any time.
“He was just a good guy,” she explained.
Sarah Rodriguez and Jim Wakefield were accustomed to seeing and serving Ed and Johnnie almost everyday at Robbie’s Pizza in downtown Wyalusing. They said that the pizza shop was a daily stop for the two while they were out working. Ed’s standard order was a Hawaiian slice with a Pepsi and Johnnie ordered meat lovers with a Mountain Dew.
“They had lunch here every day. I bet there have been about five days in the last 10 months where they didn’t come in,” Wakefield said. “It’s a huge loss for the community.”
“I can’t wrap my head around it,” Rodriguez added. “We’re shocked.”
The two recalled a time when Johnnie and Ed stopped for lunch and a delivery truck accidentally got too close to Ed’s work vehicle and scraped it badly across one side. They said that Ed and Johnnie watched it happen quietly without getting upset and had a “(stuff) happens attitude.”
“They were even-keeled,” Rodriguez remembered with a chuckle. “Nothing bothered them. They were happy.”
Candy Bidlack is remembered by her daughter, Danielle Lear, as someone who was born to be a mom.
“She didn’t want anything and never raised her voice,” Lear said. “She could have lived in a tent and been happy as long as she had her family with her.”
Danielle recalled calling her mom from a jail in Florida after getting pulled over with a suspended license.
“First thing she said was take it one day at a time,” Lear said. “Then my dad asked where he could send the money.”
Ed was also Lear’s stepfather. She said he raised Jesse since he was very young and both considered him their real father.
“He always called me and he was always singing,” she remembered.
Lear also said that Johnnie was like her brother and that she loved him like family.
“He was my big brother.”
Northrup graduated from Wyalusing Valley High School in 2006 and then went on to enlist in the Army in 2007. According to his sister, Northrup was discharged from the Army honorably after he failed a physical to serve overseas. Lear said that asbestos was found in his lungs.
While he was still in the service, Lear remembers the family receiving a distressing call from Jesse. Northrup told his parents that he had personally witnessed one of his close friends shoot himself in the head.
“That really bothered him,” Lear explained. “He was young, very young at the time. He just wanted to come home”
After he came home he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Lear said that she noticed a change in his demeanor after he returned.
“He was not sleeping and drinking a lot. Mom and dad helped him get through it.”
In the years following his return home, Northrup worked at Cargill where he received a promotion at some point, and he worked hard on maintaining his mental health. Lear said she would frequently ask him about his mental state and that as late as Thanksgiving 2018, he said that he thought his medications were balanced right and that he was good. She also said he had a hard time sleeping still and battled depression throughout.
Northrup resided at the family home since he returned from his service.
On June 10, Northrup was fired from his job at Cargill. Lear said that the circumstances surrounding his termination was that he snapped at a co-worker. She said that he told a friend that he was going to go back and try to get his job back the next day. It is unclear if he did or not.
In a press conference on Monday, Bradford County Coroner Tom Carman revealed that Northrup had been off of his medications for two months. This is something Carman said a patient with a diagnosis of PTSD or any mental health issue should never do and that it could lead to the original symptoms returning.
Last Thursday, Northrup purchased a Smith and Wesson High Point .40 caliber handgun, legally, from a local gun shop, Carman remarked. Also, Carman noted that Northrup made a statement of interest to a local bartender on the same day.
Lear told The Review that the bartender was concerned and called Candy soon after on Thursday. She said that Candy told the bartender that she would talk with Jesse about it. Candy told Danielle about this on Thursday night when the family got together to play corn hole and hang out as they were known to do frequently.
“It was a fun, normal night. Everyone was happy and laughing,” Lear said about Thursday night. “(Ed) was singing as he normally would.”
Danielle said she asked Jesse how he was that night and that he said he had strep throat, which was why he wasn’t going to work.
“He said he hadn’t slept in three days,” she continued.
Lear also said that Northrup showed his family a picture of the gun he purchased Thursday. She said Ed and Candy told him to practice safety like Ed taught him when he was young. The family owned many guns.
The next morning, Jesse shot and killed his mother, then killed his stepfather and Johnson when they returned from a job in the afternoon according to Carman. Later, Northrup turned the gun on himself. The bodies were not found until the evening.
“I still don’t believe it,” Lear said. “I can not believe that he killed our mom.”
Lear said that Northrup and his mom were very tight knit.
“She was his best friend. She was always so calm, he told her everything,” Lear recalled. “I never would have thought they were in danger.”
For now, Danielle says that she is keeping busy to keep her mind off of the shootings and that it has not quite sunk in yet. The community’s response to the horrific event has helped her, Lear said. She has not had to cook for her four children and is appreciative of the support.
“I couldn’t ask to be in a better community, people have been helping out so much,” she said.
Currently, Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the murders and Northrup’s whereabouts in the days leading up to the shootings and the Bradford County Coroner’s office is working on a psychological autopsy on Northrup. A toxicology report on the deceased is expected within two to three weeks.
A funeral service for the Bidlacks will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the P. Dean Homer Funeral Home in Wyalusing. Northrup’s funeral will be held Friday at 10 a.m. Originally, military honors were to be given for Northrup, but have since been cancelled.
Johnson’s funeral date has not been announced.