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Cousin of Metro Detroit teen Zion Foster found guilty of murder

Cousin of Eastpointe teen Zion Foster convicted in her murder
Cousin of Eastpointe teen Zion Foster convicted in her murder 00:33

A Detroit man who dropped a teenager's body into a dumpster after dark but insisted he wasn't responsible for her death was convicted of second-degree murder Thursday, a case that gripped the region in 2022 when police spent months combing a vast landfill for her remains.

Zion Foster's body was never found during an extraordinary summer search through tons of trash. But prosecutors built a circumstantial case against her cousin, Jaylin Brazier, based on his own statements, lies to the police, suspicious internet searches and other missteps.

The jury needed less than an hour to return a verdict.

"He got rid of her body because he murdered her," assistant prosecutor Ryan Elsey said during his closing argument. "That is why people get rid of bodies. Period. Full stop."

Foster, who lived in Eastpointe, was a 17-year-old high school senior in January 2022 when she disappeared. Brazier said he hadn't seen her in months but later acknowledged that he had picked her up at night and brought her to his home while his girlfriend was at work.

Brazier, 25, told police that he panicked when Foster suddenly died while they were smoking marijuana. Instead of calling 911, he drove the body to a dumpster after midnight. The bin's contents eventually were transported to a suburban landfill.

"That was a bad decision, but that doesn't mean he caused the death," defense attorney Brian Brown told jurors, adding that a strange fatal seizure was likely.

He dismissed the prosecution's case as nothing more than "theories, hypotheses, innuendoes, assumptions, gut feelings, hairs on the back of your neck."

Brazier pleaded no contest to lying to police and served a brief prison term in 2022 while authorities tried to find the body.

Elsey said text messages suggested Brazier had been grooming Foster for a sexual relationship.

"Inside that house that night there was some sort of sexual encounter that was resisted. Zion paid with her life," the prosecutor said.

Jurors saw evidence that Brazier searched the internet for information on trash-truck compactors and crime-solving techniques.

"This case remains the quintessential example of investigators and prosecutors who refused to give up on her homicide," said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. "For 18 months, investigators put together the evidence. Each piece of evidence in this case was examined and linked together Zion's cousin, Jaylin Brazier, with Murder in the Second-Degree for killing Zion."  

During the five-month landfill search, police wearing hazmat suits in 90-degree heat looked for any trace of Foster's remains, sometimes in trash as deep as 50 feet (15.2 meters). It was not successful.

"We were definitely going to try to be able to make it where the family could bring her home," Detroit Sgt. Shannon Jones told the jury.

Brazier will be sentenced on June 3. 

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