Autopsy conducted on woman found in freezer on NW Side; prosecutors say woman hid body for 2 years

While prosecutors gave no motive, they noted that an ID found in the home bore Bratcher's photo but her mother's name

Jessica D'Onofrio Image
Friday, February 3, 2023
Autopsy conducted on woman found in freezer on NW Side
An autopsy was conducted on Regina Michalski, a woman found inside a freezer whose body prosecutors said was hidden for almost two years.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Prosecutors released new, disturbing details about the woman who allegedly hid her mom's body in a freezer.

The body may have been there for nearly two years.

The medical examiner said they were finally able to conduct an autopsy Thursday, but the cause and manner of death are still pending.

RELATED: Woman charged after 96-year-old mother found dead in freezer at Cragin home

New details were revealed in court Thursday when 70-year-old Eva Bratcher faced a judge for the first time. She is charged with concealing her mother's death that appears to have happened two years ago.

Earlier this week, investigators discovered 96-year-old Regina Michalski's body in a deep freezer stored in the garage of a two flat apartment building where she and Bratcher lived in Portage Park.

Prosecutors said a receipt found in the house showed Bratcher purchased a freezer about two years ago.

READ MORE: Body found in Northwest Side freezer ID'd, hadn't been seen in years

"A search warrant was executed on the residence and police recovered proof of a fraudulent ID card with her mother's name and the defendant's photo on it," Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Pekara said.

Prosecutors said police are still investigating whether Bratcher collected her mother's social security checks or other benefits after her mother died.

Bratcher's estranged daughter, Sabrina Watson, who lives in Kentucky, called in the well-being check on her grandmother earlier this week that led to the gruesome discovery.

Watson said she had scanned obituaries for years looking for her grandmother's name. Michalski had not been in good health when Watson last saw her decades ago.

Watson said her mother had blocked her number, and anytime she visited Chicago and stopped by the home, no one would answer.

She said she went to the ER overcome by anxiety.

"She is a World War II survivor," Watson said. "She survived Nazi-occupied Poland. She survived an abusive marriage. But unfortunately, she did not survive my abusive mother."

Estranged for years, Watson at one point took a drastic step to warn people about dealing her mother: She created a Facebook page titled "Keep Eva Michalski/ Bratcher in Prison."

"This page is to alert ANYONE that knows Eva Michalski (aka Eva Bratcher, aka Ewa Michalska and probably other aliases) that she is a DANGEROUS CRIMINAL!" the page says.

While it was only speculated at in court, Watson said she believes her mother's motives in concealing the death were financial.

"There's basically nothing my mother wouldn't do for money and if that means putting a body in a freezer, she will put a body in a freezer," Watson said. "My mother would use my identity falsely. The last time she did it. She used my first name and my maiden name and said that I was unable to work because I was taking in Chicago taking home my sick grandmother."

Bratcher is being held in jail after a judge set a $20,000 bond.

Court records show Bratcher was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 for forgery in Lake County, Illinois.

In January of 2006, she pleaded guilty to felony counts of forgery in two cases and was given 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.

Bratcher 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.

Prosecutors said Bratcher hid her mother's death from tenants in the building and neighbors by telling people her mother was in a nursing home.

One tenant, Brigitte Yanez, told the Sun-Times said she remembers a conversation she had with Bratcher a few months ago in which Bratcher talked about buying a gift for her mother.

"She would talk about her like she was still here," Yanez said. "I would be very confused because she had told my dad [that her mother] was in a home in Wisconsin."

In court, prosecutors also disclosed that Bratcher is a retired U.S. Army veteran. Records indicate she retired after just over 19 years of service 1994.

During a hearing Thursday, Judge David Kelly called the allegations "very disturbing" and said she would need to post $20,000 bond to be released on electronic monitoring.

Bratcher's defense attorney said she could afford a $5,000 bond but didn't indicate if she would be able to come up with the extra money and, if so, when.

She will be allowed to return to her building if she is released from jail, but the judge warned her about having "unlawful contact" with the other tenants of the building, who are potential witnesses.

Watson said she wants her grandmother, a Polish immigrant who grew up during the Nazi occupation of her country, remembered for more than just the gruesome disposal of her remains.

"She made these amazing Polish dishes that I will never taste again. And it's horrible that I didn't take the time to you know learn her recipes," Watson.

Bratcher is expected back in court Feb. 21.

The Sun-Times Media report contributed to this post.

The Sun-Times Media report contributed to this post.