Jaylin Brazier, left, becomes emotional while listening to Ciera Milton, Zion Foster’s mother, address the court during his sentencing Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in the 16th Judicial Circuit Courthouse in Mount Clemens.

Jaylin Brazier, left, becomes emotional while listening to Ciera Milton, Zion Foster’s mother, address the court during his sentencing Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in the 16th Judicial Circuit Courthouse in Mount Clemens.

Photo by Brian Wells

Cousin charged with second-degree murder in Zion Foster’s death

By: Brian Wells | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 16, 2023


EASTPOINTE — The cousin of an Eastpointe teenager who disappeared in 2022 is facing new charges related to her disappearance.

Jaylin Omar Brazier, 24, of Detroit, who was previously charged and sentenced to prison last year for lying to police, is now charged with second-degree murder and tampering with evidence.

“An exhaustive investigation over a year and a half was conducted by the Detroit Police Department assisted by local, state, and federal agencies,” the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office stated in a press release.

Brazier was arraigned June 13 in the 36th District Court in Detroit by Magistrate Jeffrey Kleparek. According to the Michigan Offender Tracking Information System, he was paroled on Jan. 17, 2023. Wayne County Jail records show him as being held in custody without bond.

“Our hearts go out to the family of Zion Foster,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a prepared statement. “This case is a quintessential example of investigators and prosecutors who refused to give up on her homicide. For 18 months, investigators put together the evidence. Each piece of evidence in this case was examined and linked together.”

A probable cause conference is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. July 3 before 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, new facts and evidence are expected to be presented during the preliminary exam, which is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. July 10.

Eastpointe Chief of Police Matthew Hambright declined to comment on what the new evidence could be; however, he said his department worked with Detroit police to help bring up charges.

“Without saying too much, our detective bureau assisted them. … We have a detective who did a ton of work on that and helped them out behind the scenes,” he said. “We were aware of the situation as it was happening. They used us a little bit and then we gave them all the information we had, which they used to lead to their target.”

Tim Doty, Brazier’s attorney, declined to comment.


The case so far
Foster, 17, of Eastpointe, was last seen Jan. 4, 2022, when she left home to spend time with her cousin, Brazier. When she didn’t return home, her mother filed a missing-persons report with the Eastpointe Police Department.

Brazier was named a person of interest in her disappearance. On Jan. 19, 2022, he turned himself in, and on Jan. 22, Eastpointe police said he would be charged with lying to investigators.

During his March 31, 2022, sentencing after he had pleaded no contest, Brazier said Foster died while they were together. He acted out of panic after that, he said, and others present in the court alleged that he put Foster’s body in a dumpster.

“I just didn’t know what to do. I literally did not know what to do. … Like what do I do, who do I call, my kids are upstairs, we had just gotten to this place after struggling for like two years,” Brazier said, choking back tears at his March 31, 2022, sentencing.

He was sentenced to 23 months to four years in prison on the charge of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation; however, the sentencing judge stated that he felt the charges should have been more.

On May 12, 2022, Detroit Police Chief James White announced Operation Justice For Zion at a press conference. The operation involved using heavy machinery to clear debris from a 100-by-100-foot space in the Pine Tree Acres landfill in Lenox Township and was aimed at finding evidence while also bringing closure to Foster’s family.

The search began shortly after and continued through the summer. The Detroit Public Safety Foundation joined forces with the Detroit Police and Fire departments, the Detroit Department of Public Works and Richmond-Lenox EMS, along with other local businesses and organizations, to support the search efforts.

At a press conference held June 3, 2022, Detroit Police Major Crimes Cmdr. Michael McGinnis said searchers had located a piece of mail with a Detroit address that indicated to them that they were searching the correct area.

However, in October, the search was halted without finding Foster’s body.

“It’s sad to think that they may know that their daughter’s still in a landfill and that’s her burial site,” said Patti Kukula, executive director of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation. “That is heart-wrenching, but you’re grateful that they did everything that they thought humanly, professionally, scientifically they could do to find her. So as a mom, I’m grateful that this was undertaken.”

Kukula, who spent time at the landfill, said that she hoped every day she’d get a call saying they’d found Foster’s body.

“That didn’t happen, and that’s kind of how life is,” she said.