A 69-year-old woman who left her dead mother’s body in a freezer for nearly two years on Chicago’s Northwest Side documented the death on a household calendar but didn’t tell anyone, prosecutors said in court Thursday.
Eva Bratcher appeared before Cook County Judge David Kelly, who set her bond at $200,000 during a hearinglivestreamed on YouTube. Bratcher must pay $20,000 to be released from custody until her next court date.
Bratcher, charged with concealing a death or moving a body and possessing a fake identity card, allegedly noted on a house calendar that her 96-year-old mother, whose name was not mentioned in court, died on March 4, 2021, at about 2 p.m., said Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Pekara.
One week later, she bought a new freezer and placed her mother’s body in it, said Pekara, who added investigators found her receipt.
“The defendant moved the freezer containing the body into the garage and it remained there until Jan. 30,” Pekara said.
The cause of death was not yet known because the remains were frozen, but an autopsy was expected later Thursday or Friday.
“To place a woman of that age who has lived a very long life into a freezer in the back of a home is very, very disturbing to this court,” Kelly said before setting bail. It was a “very disrespectful” way to handle the remains, he added.
Bratcher, who is a U.S. Army veteran and was born in Poland, also possessed at least one fake identification, which had her picture but her mother’s name, Pekara said.
Bratcher’s attorney said she receives retirement benefits from the military and collects Social Security benefits. In addition, she manages the building on the 5500 block of West Melrose Street, where she and her mother lived, and collects rent for two apartments there. The building was owned by her mother, but Bratcher had power of attorney.
Police conducting a well-being check responded to the first floor of the home about 4:35 p.m. Monday, where they discovered the woman’s body.
The name of the woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was not being officially released by the Cook County medical examiner’s office but relatives of Regina Michalski believe it is her.
Sabrina Watson, Michalski’s maternal granddaughter, called Chicago police on Monday when she began getting a bad feeling and worrying more and more about Michalski, who had been living with Sabrina’s mother.
“I just knew she was no longer with us,” Watson told the Tribune of her grandmother, who was born in Poland in August 1926.
Watson, who said she has not been in contact with Bratcher, who is her mother, and is not on speaking terms with her, also hadn’t seen her grandmother since at least 2011. She decided to have officers do a well-being check.
“It’s got to be her,” Watson said, after learning the two tenants in the building had not seen her in years and her mother told conflicting stories about where she was: Once her mother told a neighbor asking if she’d seen Regina that Regina was taking a nap and wasn’t available. Another time she told neighbors her mom was “fine” and living in a retirement home in Wisconsin while a third time she claimed Michalski had died, according to Watson.
Bratcher has felony convictions including a 2010 forgery from Lake County, and two 2005 forgery convictions from Cook County in which she was “accessing another individual’s post office box under the guise that she was allowed to access the box,” Pekara said.
Bratcher also has two misdemeanor convictions from 2005, including a violation of an order of protection and a domestic battery. Neither of the victims was her mother, Pekara said.
Bratcher is due back in court Feb. 21.
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