CHICAGO — A Portage Park woman with a history of fraud convictions has been sentenced to 18 months for hiding her dead mother’s body in a freezer for nearly two years. Officials suspected Eva Bratcher, 70, concealed her 96-year-old mom’s body so she could continue to collect the dead woman’s Social Security checks.
Chicago police conducting a well-being check at the home Bratcher shared with her mother in the 5500 block of West Melrose found Regina Michalski’s body in the garage, stuffed inside a large freezer. Prosecutors said cops found a receipt for the freezer inside the home, dated about a week after Michalski was suspected of dying.
After Michalksi’s body thawed out, a process prosecutors expected to take about a week, the Cook County medical examiner’s office determined that she died by accidentally choking on a foreign object.
Bratcher pleaded guilty last month to concealing a death and possessing a fraudulent ID card. Officials said she carried a state identification card that bore her picture with her mother’s information. Judge Carol Howard sentenced her to 18 months on each count, to be served concurrently, according to court records.
Bratcher’s daughter, Sabrina Watson, made the phone call that sent Chicago police to the Northwest Side home.
“I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt she’s alive at 96. So could you please just go to the property and knock on the door or look around?” Watson recalled telling a 911 operator.
In an interview with the Sun-Times, Watson recalled being 14 years old when Bratcher was being sent to prison decades ago. Bratcher left her with instructions: “If your grandmother dies, have her buried under a different name.”
“And I said why? And she said, ‘Well if you bury her, idiot, under the name Regina Michalski, I won’t get her checks anymore, and I need those checks,'” Watson remembered, according to the paper.
“I hope they’re following the money on this,” Robert Bratcher, who was married to Eva for 20 years, told CBS2. “[Bratcher’s] mother, I’m sure, was withdrawing Social Security.”
Bratcher’s sentence will be reduced to nine months for good behavior, and she will receive credit for the time she spent in custody after being charged. She is expected to be paroled next week. She received prison sentences for forgery three times between 2006 and 2010, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.