Man gets 43-year prison sentence in death of Detroit-area teen whose body is lost in landfill

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit man convicted of killing a teenager whose body is believed to be lost forever in a landfill was sentenced Monday to at least 43 years in prison.

Zion Foster’s remains were never found during an extraordinary summer search through tons of trash in 2022. Prosecutors built a circumstantial case against her cousin, Jaylin Brazier, who admitted that he had put the body in a dumpster but denied having any role in her death.

Brazier's “cold indifference and self-absorbed conduct leading up to Zion Foster's death through today made it clear that (it's) unlikely that he can be rehabilitated,” Wayne County Judge Donald Knapp said.

Brazier, 25, was convicted of second-degree murder and tampering with evidence. He'll be eligible for parole after serving 43 years in custody.

“I caused all of this, of course. I take responsibility for that,” Brazier told the judge, though he denied hurting Foster.

Foster, who lived in Eastpointe, was a 17-year-old high school senior in 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 taken her to his home while his girlfriend was at work.

Brazier claimed to police that Foster suddenly died while they were smoking marijuana. Instead of calling 911, he said, he panicked and drove the body to a dumpster after midnight. The bin’s contents eventually were taken to a suburban landfill.

Experts testified that death from marijuana use was not likely. Assistant prosecutor Ryan Elsey told jurors that Foster probably died while resisting Brazier's sexual advances.

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

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