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Daughter kept body of woman in her 90s in freezer for nearly two years, prosecutors say

Woman's dead body had been in freezer for nearly two years, prosecutors say
Woman's dead body had been in freezer for nearly two years, prosecutors say 03:04

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A woman in her 90s whose daughter is accused of concealing her body in a freezer had been dead for nearly two years when she was found this week, prosecutors said Thursday.

The body of Regina Michalski was found in a freezer in a garage in Portage Park this week.

Michalski Family

Michalski's daughter – Eva Bratcher, 69, of the 5500 block of West Melrose Street – now stands charged with one count of concealing a death and moving a body, and one count of possessing a fraudulent ID card – both felonies.

Bratcher's bond was set at $200,000 on Thursday. She appeared virtually in court.

As CBS 2's Andrew Ramos reported, Cook County Criminal Court Judge David Kelly called Bratcher's alleged actions "disturbing" and "disrespectful."

Eva Bratcher Chicago Police

Michalski had been referenced as being 96 years old – but it appears she did not actually live to be 96. Michalski died March 4, 2021, of causes still unclear, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Mike Pekara said in a proffer.

Bratcher bought the freezer a week after her mother died, and stored her mother's corpse in the freezer in the garage.

The body was finally discovered Monday, after Bratcher's estranged daughter, Sabrina Watson of Kentucky, called Chicago Police for a wellbeing check on her grandmother, CBS 2's Charlie De Mar reported this week.

This means Michalski's body was being stored in the freezer for nearly two years.

Among the documents that were found in Bratcher's Melrose Street home was an Illinois state ID with her mother's information, but her own picture, prosecutors said. It is believed she was using it to impersonate her mother, prosecutors said.

The Melrose Street home where the family they lived in has three floors, and two of them were being rented out. While the motive remains unclear, prosecutors alluded that the flow of revenue which came from tenants in the home owned by the deceased mother may have played a role.

"She collected rent from the other occupants of the three-flat from the time her mother passed away to present," Pekara said.

Neighbors told CBS 2 that before Michalski's body was discovered, her daughter had told them conflicting stories about the older woman's whereabouts.

"She was telling different neighbors different stories," said Brigette Yanez, who lives in the same building. "Like some people, she was saying she was in a nursing home in Wisconsin. To other people, she had already passed away. And to me, she was still talking about her, like she was still alive."

Watson said Wednesday that believes Bratcher was motivated by money and was collecting her mother's Social Security checks.

"Money," Watson said. "It's always been money. She would steal my identity for money. She did it to my sister. She did it to my husband."

Bratcher's ex-husband, Robert Bratcher, also said he believed his ex-wife was withdrawing his mother's Social Security.

But in court, defense attorney John L. Sullivan dismissed the motive as being driven by money, as Bratcher had power of attorney for her mother. She also helped manage the money that came in from rent, Sullivan said.

Judge Kelly determined the bond amount due to Bratcher's lengthy criminal past – which includes a forgery conviction in 2010 and two felony forgery convictions in 2005. She also had a domestic battery conviction in 2005.

Again, among the many questions still not answered is the cause of Michalski's death. According to prosecutors, due to the frozen state of the body, an autopsy has not yet been performed at the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

That is expected to happen either later Thursday or Friday.

Bratcher's next court date is Tuesday, Feb. 21.

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