EASTPOINTE, Mich. – The cousin of missing Eastpointe teenager Zion Foster has been released from custody less than one year after being sentenced for lying to police about throwing her body in a dumpster.
Jaylin Brazier, 23, of Detroit, appeared in court March 30 to accept a plea deal on the charges of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation and lying to a peace officer.
Officials said the father of two was with his cousin, 17-year-old Foster, when she was last seen on Jan. 4, 2022. He claims she stopped breathing for an unknown reason while they were smoking marijuana, so he panicked and put her body in a dumpster.
Brazier was sentenced in March to between 23 months and four years in prison, but on Tuesday, he was released.
MORE: Mother delivers powerful statement at sentencing for cousin who lied during search for Eastpointe teen
When asked, Foster’s mother, Cierra Milton, said she was not made aware that Brazier’s sentence had changed.
“Good question -- one I hope to receive an answer for,” Milton said.
The Michigan Department of Corrections put Brazier in a special alternative incarceration program -- a boot camp. His sentenced was drastically cut, and he ultimately spent less than 10 months behind bars.
Milton said she was never told that this was happening, though she received a note from someone close to the case that it was possible.
“The document I received says it was approved by the judge,” Milton said. “I am livid. I am absolutely livid.”
Why wouldn’t Macomb County Judge Edward Servitto notify her?
“I wish I knew,” Milton said. “I was supposed to have say, voice my opinion, bring it back to light. Nothing.”
Detroit police recently spent months picking through a landfill, trying to find Foster’s remains. They were unsuccessful.
Without Foster’s body, the case against Brazier becomes more difficult, according to Local 4 crime and safety expert Darnell Blackburn.
On Tuesday, Detroit police Chief James White said detectives are still talking to Brazier to try to get more information and charge the case “the way it needs to be charged.”
Timeline of events
The charges against Brazier stemmed from the weeks he spent withholding critical information during the search for his cousin, according to authorities.
Here’s what we know about the sequence of events:
- Jan. 4: Foster is last seen at her home on Melrose Court in Eastpointe.
- Jan. 10: Eastpointe police report Foster missing.
- Also on this date, a private investigator out of Chicago sent Local 4 photos of Brazier’s Acura in Detroit and Hazel Park.
- Jan. 13: Brazier’s car is spotted in Waterford Township.
Milton told the court that Brazier had lied to her about her daughter’s disappearance, claiming he hadn’t seen her for months or years.
“He called me,” Milton said. “I didn’t call him. He called me on (Jan. 5, 2022), 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.’”
She said Brazier even helped her during the search for Foster, all while knowing what had actually happened to her daughter.
RELATED: Prosecutors question whether Eastpointe teen was really dead when cousin threw her in dumpster
“As far as the many times that I went to his house during the search, Your Honor, he helped me post fliers of my baby in his neighborhood, on the corner of his house, the street that he lives,” Milton said. “He told me, along with his mother, ‘I would not lie to you. I know this has got to be really fearful for you, but I’m telling you I have not seen her. I have not been around her.’ His mother said, ‘My baby wouldn’t lie to me,’ and so now everybody is suffering.”
Brazier told Servitto that his actions were sparked by panic.
“Yes, I lied, but I was not in the right state of mind,” Brazier said. “There was no way for me to prepare for a situation like that. I was scared.”
The defense accepted a plea deal and asked Servitto to consider a sentence of probation. Brazier maintained that he didn’t know what had happened to cause his cousin’s death.
“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. I reacted stupidly off of fear and panic like I’ve never felt before in my life.”
He said he did not think about calling 911. He said they had been smoking marijuana, so his mental state wasn’t in a logical place.
“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.”
Milton spoke for several minutes about the devastating impact this has had on her family. (You can watch her full victim impact statement at the bottom of this page.)
“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?” she 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.”
Milton, with Brazier standing across the room to her right, said he should have called 911 or a family member. She’s left to wonder if her daughter could have been helped.
“Why lie?” Milton asked. “This is something that can’t be repaired. She cannot be replaced. This cannot be rectified, and we will never have closure, and as much as I love you guys, as much as I love that family, you have caused such (devastation) that it’s hard to trust family at all, and now my babies are even more isolated because how can I trust family when family is the one who did this?
“I will never forgive you, Jaylin, and it may not matter, but I hope -- I hope that your children grow up without you so that they can be better.”
Servitto addressed Milton directly several times, expressing disbelief at what she was forced to endure.
He also made it clear that probation wouldn’t be enough of a punishment for Brazier.
“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. By your own admission to this court today, ‘I knew what happened to her, and I chose to conceal it,’ to perpetuate the false statement on this family while they participated with a falsehood that you created that she was out there somewhere.
“That’s just incredible, absolutely incredible. I cannot do anything to remedy what occurred. I am so sorry for what has happened to (the family). But you need to be punished.
“Your failure to be honest and truthful in preventing -- I don’t know, maybe preventing certain further pain and suffering from the family -- requires punishment. Probation -- you’ve recommended that he be afforded probation -- that’s not appropriate today. He’s going to prison today, and the prison sentence here hardly reflects the injury that you’ve accomplished.”
Brazier was sentenced to 23 months to four years in prison.
Eastpointe police issued a missing person’s alert Jan. 10, 2022, for Foster, passing along her family’s concern that the 17-year-old was being held against her will.
Milton said her daughter hadn’t been seen since Brazier picked her up Jan. 4, 2022, at her home in the 22000 block of Melrose Court in Eastpointe.
On Jan. 17, 2022, nearly two weeks after Foster’s disappearance, community members joined her family in a search on Detroit’s west side. Milton said her daughter had sent her the location of a home on Greenfield Road and Vassar Drive, but that was the last time she was heard from.
“We are pleading,” Milton said at the time. “We are pleading. Not just for Zion, but for all these missing people. It’s not right. It is not right.”
Brazier was named a person of interest in the case and turned himself in Jan. 19, 2022, for questioning.
Three days later, he was officially arrested on a warrant connected to his cousin’s disappearance.
Officials charged Brazier with lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation and lying to a peace officer. He was arraigned Jan. 24, 2022, in 38th District Court.
You can watch Milton’s full victim impact statement here:
Here is Brazier’s full statement to the judge:
Here’s the full sentencing: