PORTAGE PARK — A Far Northwest Side woman was charged with two felonies after prosecutors said she hid her mother’s body in a freezer in the family’s garage for nearly two years after she died.
Eva Bratcher, 69, of the 5500 block of West Melrose Street, is charged with concealing her mother’s death and using a fake ID with her mother’s information on it, prosecutors said at Bratcher’s bond hearing Thursday.
Bratcher was arrested earlier this week after her 96-year-old mother, Regina Michalski, was found dead by detectives inside the family home, officials said.
Police found Michalski’s body after Bratcher’s estranged daughter, who lives in another state, asked police to perform a wellbeing check on her grandmother since she hadn’t spoken with her for more than a year, prosecutor Mike Pekara said.
Michalski, who owned the two-flat where she lived with her daughter, died March 4, 2021, in the home with her daughter present, Pekara said. Detectives determined she died about 2 p.m. that day, according to a calendar found inside the home where her death was noted, he said.
About a week later, Bratcher bought a freezer and put her mother’s body inside, where it stayed until police found it this week, prosecutors said.
“She did admit to police that after her mother died, she purchased the freezer about a week later and then placed [her] mother in the freezer,” Pekara said.
Michalski’s cause of death has not yet been determined because her body was too frozen for officials to perform an autopsy, prosecutors said. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the cause when their examination is complete, officials said.
Detectives found a fake Illinois ID card with Michalski’s name and Bratcher’s photo on it, prosecutors said. They also found a document that had been signed with Michalski’s name after her death, Pekara said.
Bratcher, a longtime Chicagoan, was born in Poland but is a U.S. citizen and military veteran, her lawyer John Sullivan said.
Bratcher acted as the property manager for her mother’s building and collected rent from other tenants, Pekara said. After Michalski died, she told neighbors and other tenants her mother was in a nursing home, he said.
Neighbors told the Sun-Times that Bratcher told conflicting stories in recent months about her mother: that she was in a nursing home in another state, that she was still living at home and doing fine or that she had died.
Other family members were shocked to hear the news and said Michalski was a Polish immigrant who spent most of her life working for Motorola.
Judge David Kelly called the allegations “very disturbing” and told Bratcher it was “not a proper or appropriate way to handle your mother’s remains.”
“It was a very disrespectful way to handle the remains of your mother,” Kelly said.
Sullivan said there are parts of the case that still do not make sense, like why Bratcher would conceal the death for so long.
Bratcher “stands to inherit property upon her mother’s death, so, to me, it doesn’t make sense to delay notification that her mother died … That only delays the defendant getting the title of the [two]-flat on Melrose,” Sullivan said.
As a veteran, Bratcher lives off her retirement from the military and receives other social security benefits, he said.
It was not clear whether Bratcher’s mother was receiving any social security benefits or additional government funds.
Bratcher has a criminal history involving forgery, domestic battery and violating her probation on multiple occasions. In 2010, she served four years in prison in Lake County for forgery and served two years for the same offense in 2005, prosecutors said.
Kelly ordered Bratcher held on a $200,000 bond. If she is released, she is ordered to have no contact with her tenants and can collect rent indirectly, he said. She will also be placed her on electronic monitoring.
“There seems to be an ongoing pattern with you where you have difficulty abiding by the laws of this county and that there is a need to mislead and misguide people,” Kelly said. “That’s a strong issue related to your character.”
Bratcher is due again in court Feb. 21.