Chicago woman charged after 96-year-old mother found dead in freezer

A Chicago woman has been charged after police found her 96-year-old mother in a Northwest Side freezer earlier this week.

Eva Bratcher, 69, was taken into custody shortly after police found the body of Regina Michalski on Monday in the 5500 block of West Melrose Street during a well-being check.

It was not known how long Regina Michalski had been dead. Neighbors said Bratcher had told conflicting stories in recent months: that her mother was in a nursing home in another state; that she was still living at home and doing fine; that she had died.

Bratcher’s daughter Sabrina Watson, who lives in Kentucky, said she called police to check on the home because she had an "intuition" that something was wrong.


"I just said, I’m calling [the police] and just having them do a welfare check," Watson said. "What could go wrong? Apparently everything.

"My heart is broken," she added. "I miss her very much."

An autopsy determining the cause of death was pending.

Regina Michalski and Bratcher had lived together for years on the first floor of the two-flat on Melrose, and the daughter was the building’s landlord, neighbors said.

Bratcher, who also went by Eva Michalski, was arrested nearly a dozen times between 1997 and 2005, according to Cook County court records. In all but one case, she used variations of a different name: Eva Bratcher.

In January 2006, she pleaded guilty to felony counts of forgery in two cases, records show. She was handed down concurrent sentences of six months in the Cook County Jail and two years’ probation. Later in 2006, she was found guilty of misdemeanor counts of battery and violating an order of protection in two other cases, and she was sentenced to concurrent, two-year probation terms.

She completed her probation sentences without fulfilling the requirements, and she pleaded guilty to violating the terms of her release, records show. She was then sentenced to concurrent two-year prison terms, though she had accrued a significant amount of time served.

She has also faced a range of charges that were dropped, including battery, assault, retail theft, criminal damage to property, and reckless and disorderly conduct.

One of Regina Michalski’s other grandchildren, Diane Michalski, told the Sun-Times that she used to live above her grandmother at the West Melrose address. Diane Michalski said her grandmother was a Polish immigrant who spent most of her life working for Motorola.

"I remember being a kid, and she’d bring some work home and show me the little technology and all the little intricate details that she had to do for her job," Diane Michalski said. "I mean, if you want to talk about women in STEM, she was it."

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.