EASTPOINTE, Mich. – Prosecutors are questioning whether Eastpointe teenager Zion Foster was really dead when her cousin threw her body in a dumpster.
Several new details of Foster’s disappearance emerged Wednesday (March 30) during the sentencing for her cousin, Jaylin Brazier.
Brazier, 23, was sentenced to prison for lying to authorities about his involvement in Foster’s disappearance. He originally denied seeing his cousin at all, only to admit weeks later that he had thrown her body in a dumpster.
“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.”
Brazier said he panicked when he suddenly found his cousin dead, and that’s why he took her body to a dumpster.
MORE: Court paints picture of how Eastpointe teen Zion Foster disappeared, where her body could be
“Are you telling me that you’re stoned, she’s stoned, you think she dies and then you dispose of the body?” Judge Edward 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’?”
During an emotional victim impact statement, Foster’s mother, Ciera Milton, asked Brazier if he had considered that her daughter might not have been dead.
“What if you were so high you didn’t know she was alive and you just threw her in the dumpster in the cold without a coat?” Milton asked. “If that’s the case, then that means my baby was crushed in the process of how trash is taken and picked up and placed in a landfill where she will never be found. I will never know. I will never know. I won’t get to see my baby again.”
The prosecutor took that a step further.
“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. Now, he didn’t claim to be affected in any way, but reported that it was an overdose, said she was breathing faintly -- that’s important for the court.
“He tells police -- the only one with knowledge of the facts -- his version, if you believe a marijuana overdose, is that she was breathing faintly and he panicked. He didn’t check on whether she was still breathing when he put her in the trunk of his car. He didn’t check whether she was still breathing when he drove her to a dumpster.”
At this point, Servitto interjected, reminding the prosecutor that the matter in front of the court was sentencing for two specific charges -- lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation and lying to a peace officer.
“Counsel, my concern here is what you’re suggesting is that this was murder,” Servitto said. “That’s what you’re suggesting, is that this was murder, not the disposal of a body, and that’s the prosecution’s consideration, and you’re putting facts in here that are not before this court, and this court is not prepared to sentence on murder today, because that’s not before me.”
The prosecutor justified bringing up his arguments by pointing to offense variables pertaining to the “psychological injury to family members” and “the transport or placement of a victim into a place of greater danger.”
“A woman who’s faintly breathing thrown into a trunk of a car buried beneath trash certainly has been placed in a location of greater danger,” the prosecutor said. “Those are factors not considered within the public order guideline range, but they are to be considered by Your Honor when you make this decision, judge.
“At the time I authorized these charges, I was aware, and as he sits before you today, you’re aware these may be the only consequences he faces for the torture, the pain and the suffering this family has to go through when they want to visit their daughter’s resting place, and they have to go to a landfill.”
“Counsel, my concern is that I’m not sure I have the appropriate offense here,” Servitto said. “Based on what you’re saying and that she was alive and put in a position that she end up deceased, murder should be the charge.”
“That’s a decision that (the) Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office needs to make, Your Honor,” the prosecutor interjected.
“But that is not a decision for this court because it has not been charged,” Servitto said. “So I can’t go into these guidelines and say murder is an issue here, because it is not before me, and you know that as well as I know that, and this would come back tomorrow, should I even consider that. It will not be considered by this court.”
“Understood, Your Honor,” the prosecutor said.
You can watch video of this full exchange below.