EASTPOINTE, Mich. – A clearer picture of what happened the day Eastpointe teen Zion Foster disappeared and where her body might be started to emerge during the sentencing for her cousin.
Jaylin Brazier, 23, was sentenced to prison Wednesday (March 30) because he lied to authorities during their investigation into Foster’s disappearance.
Foster, 17, was last seen Jan. 4, when Brazier picked her up from her Eastpointe home, officials said. Brazier allowed Foster’s family to spend weeks searching for her before revealing that he had thrown her body in a dumpster, he admitted in court.
Judge Edward Servitto, who sentenced Brazier to 23 months to four years in prison for lying to police, conceded that there’s only one person who will ever truly know what happened to Foster.
“What happened there, I have no idea -- none,” Servitto said. “The demise of this poor young lady is information that I never will possess, nobody will possess. Quite frankly, it’s unique to your memory, which you did not share, which you intentionally then put this family through unnecessary trauma, despair, heartache for no reason.”
While many of the details surrounding Foster’s disappearance remain cloudy, comments from both Brazier and a prosecutor provided some context.
RELATED: Prosecutors question whether Eastpointe teen was really dead when cousin threw her in dumpster
Zion Foster’s disappearance
The original missing person’s report issued in early January said that Foster was last seen Jan. 4 and stated her family feared she was being held against her will.
Foster’s mother, Ciera Milton, filled in some of the blanks. She said her daughter asked to hang out with Brazier, her favorite cousin.
“She shared her location with me everywhere she goes,” Milton said. “She asks if she can go wherever, I would allow her to go. There are yeses and there are nos because, as a parent, you want to protect your babies.
“So yes, Zion, you can go with your cousin -- who you have in your phone as ‘Favo’ because he’s your favorite on that side of the family.”
Milton said when Brazier arrived to pick up her daughter, he pulled into the neighbor’s driveway.
“He came that night and he picked my baby up by pulling into my neighbor’s driveway and then parking in the front of my other neighbor’s driveway,” Milton said.
“She left to go to an individual’s home -- didn’t know who at that time,” the prosecutor said. “Ultimately, of course, we learned it’s Jaylin Brazier’s, to smoke marijuana, as he indicates later.”
While speaking on his own behalf before the sentenced was announced, Brazier offered his side of what happened while he and his cousin were together. He said they were smoking marijuana at his house on Detroit’s west side.
“I don’t know exactly how she passed or what caused her to pass,” Brazier said. “I just know one minute, she was cool, she was fine. She laid back for a minute, and next thing I know, she’s just -- she was dead. I don’t know what caused it. I did not cause it or anything like that.”
“Are you telling me that you’re stoned, she’s stoned, you think she dies and then you dispose of the body?” Servitto asked. “Just like that? That was your choice?”
“I sat for a minute,” Brazier said. “I didn’t know what to do. I just did not know what to do.”
“I’m trying to understand with the limited information I have,” Servitto said. “This person passed away in your presence and your first thought is, ‘Well, I’ve got to get rid of the body’?”
“My first thought was how bad it looked to start with,” Brazier said. “How do I explain what happened? I don’t know why she died or what caused her to die, and just a lot of possibilities popped in my head. I was reacting off of just innate fear. I don’t know. Literally, I don’t do anything. I just didn’t know what to do, literally. Literally, did now know what to do. I sat for at least 10 minutes sitting there, like, ‘What do I do? Who do I call?’ My kids are upstairs. We just got into this place after struggling for like two years to get here, and everything is falling down.”
Lies told to family members, police
In the days following Foster’s disappearance, Milton and family members were desperate for information about what happened. She said she spoke to Brazier, but he denied even seeing her daughter.
“He called me,” Milton said. “I didn’t call him. He called me on (Jan. 5), when my baby didn’t come home. He called me to say, ‘I don’t know why Zion would lie and put me into this. I haven’t seen her in years. I haven’t seen her in months.’ And I’m, like, ‘What? It wasn’t too long ago that I saw you.’”
According to the prosecution, on Jan. 5, Brazier spoke to Milton, and on Jan. 7, text messages were exchanged between the two. In the meantime, Milton was targeted by scammers who took advantage of her desire for information, officials said.
“People are taking advantage of her not because of the defendant’s panic, but because of what he chose to do every minute, every hour and every day after Jan. 4,” the prosecutor said.
Brazier lied to authorities throughout the investigation, right up until he turned himself in, according to prosecutors. On Jan. 10, he told police that he hadn’t seen Foster nor been to Eastpointe in a year, they said. On Jan. 14, police confronted him with phone records and he claimed he hadn’t seen his cousin since May, they said.
He later agreed to come in for a polygraph test, but didn’t know up, officials said.
Brazier admits he lied to police
Brazier finally turned himself in Jan. 19, alongside his lawyer.
“He tells police -- ultimately, although lying during the course of the interview -- he eventually confesses that he did in fact see Zion that night, picked her up, brought her home,” the prosecutor said. “They combined their marijuana together and they both smoked it. Somehow, when he came back to the room, she was unconscious.”
The prosecutor said Brazier put Foster in the trunk of his car and drove her to a dumpster. That’s when he placed her body inside, the prosecutor said.
Brazier ultimately told police the location of the dumpster where he placed Foster’s body, according to authorities. Police identified the company that hauls from that dumpster and used that information to find out where the trash is dumped.
“Now, 14 or more days after the incident -- 15 days of lies and more -- they find out that her body is, unfortunately, 75-100 feet or more below the surface,” the prosecutor said.
You can watch the full sentencing below.