Search of landfill for missing Eastpointe teenager halted

By: Brian Wells | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published October 13, 2022

 The search of a Lenox Township landfill to find the body of missing Eastpointe teenager Zion Foster ended Oct. 12 without locating her remains.

The search of a Lenox Township landfill to find the body of missing Eastpointe teenager Zion Foster ended Oct. 12 without locating her remains.

File photo

MACOMB COUNTY — After months of digging through a Lenox Township landfill, the search for the body of a missing Eastpointe teenager has come to a close.

Detroit police announced Oct. 12 that the search for Zion Foster, 17, has concluded without finding her 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.”

The Detroit Public Safety Foundation joined forces with the Detroit Police and Fire departments, the Detroit Department of Public Works and Richmond-Lenox EMS, among other local businesses and organizations, to comb the Pine Tree Acres landfill in Lenox Township in search of Foster’s body.

Foster, 17, of Eastpointe, was last seen Jan. 4, when she left home to hang out with her cousin, Jaylin Brazier, 23, of Detroit. When she didn’t return home, her mother filed a missing persons report.

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

Brazier, in court for his sentencing March 31 on a charge of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation, said that while he and Foster were together, Foster died. He acted out of panic after that, he said, and others 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 sentencing.

He was sentenced to 23 months to four years in prison after pleading no contest to the charge of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation.

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

“Ending the search without recovering Zion’s remains is very difficult for all of us,” White said in a prepared statement Oct. 21. “I can only imagine the pain Zion’s family is going through, and we all certainly share in that pain. While this operation has concluded, our investigation has not, and we are confident in the work our investigators have done. I want to thank all those who contributed to this operation. We could not have done this without the generous support of our partners, community and department members who volunteered as searchers.”

At the May 12 press conference, Detroit Police Major Crimes Cmdr. Michael McGinnis said that the department had sent a warrant request to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, which was reviewing the request.

“We are confident that Mr. Brazier was responsible for the death of Zion,” he said.

The search began at the end of May and continued through the summer. At a press conference held June 3, McGinnis said searchers had located a piece of mail with a Detroit address that indicated to them that they were searching in the correct area.

Throughout the search, the Detroit Public Safety Foundation asked the community for donations.

According to a press release Oct. 21, crews searched through 15 million pounds of material during the search. More than $453,000 was donated from community partners and businesses to help fund the search, the release states.

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.