Police did not detail a motive in the killing.
Bill Streit, Frankel’s
66-year-old son-in-law, said Birch and Frankel were longtime family friends who met through their relatives’ work with the Catholic Worker Movement.
“We watched her grow up,” Streit said, describing Birch as sweet and empathetic. “Even in our wildest imagining, no one would have ever ever ever thought this could possibly happen.”
Birch moved in with Frankel a few months ago, Streit said, in what the family thought would be a “win-win situation.” Frankel could have companionship at an old age, and Birch could have a room in her house.
Instead, charging documents said, the family learned that Birch had allegedly suffocated Frankel.
Authorities charged Birch with first-degree murder, and she was held without bond, police said.
Birch’s family could not be reached to comment.
The public defender’s office, which represented Birch in court Thursday, declined to comment.
Streit said his late mother-in-law was a lifelong artist who had an art studio in her house that she liked to use with her grandchildren.
She and a friend put together a book about her life, titled
“Nancy @ Ninety: Seven Decades of Sculpture by Nancy Frankel.”
“She was the strongest, purely good woman,” he said.
Dan Morse contributed to this report.