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Murder trial opens in death of Detroit-area teen whose disappearance led to grueling landfill search

The trial is underway in Detroit in the death of a 17-year-old girl whose disappearance led to a monthslong search through tons of rotting trash

ByED WHITE Associated Press
May 7, 2024, 12:59 PM

DETROIT -- A man who dropped a Detroit-area teenager’s body in a dumpster “left behind a trail of digital evidence” implicating him in her death, despite a fruitless, extraordinary search to find the remains in a landfill, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

Jaylin Brazier, 25, is on trial for second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Zion Foster, whose body hasn't been found.

Detroit police in 2022 raked through tons of rotting trash at a suburban landfill to try to find any trace, a rare step by a law enforcement agency. The search, sometimes in 90-degree heat and humidity, was called off after five months.

“Was she choked? Was she raped? Did she die somehow of some inexplicable natural cause?” assistant prosecutor Ryan Elsey said in his opening remarks to a jury. “The search for Zion’s body became paramount to the investigation.”

Brazier and Foster were cousins. He has denied killing her and insists Foster suddenly died while they were using marijuana at his Detroit home.

Brazier told police that he panicked, stashed the body in a car trunk and drove it to a dumpster after midnight, disclosures that led to the landfill search, according to investigators.

Defense attorney Brian Brown said it's a case of “fear and bad decisions."

“Jaylin was scared,” Brown said. “He might have not made the right decision, but at the end of the day that does not make him a murderer."

Elsey told jurors that experts would rule out the possibility of a marijuana-related death. He said Brazier “left behind a trail of digital evidence that is damning.”

Brazier searched the internet for information about whether garbage trucks crush trash and the possibility of criminal charges when a body can't be found, the prosecutor said.

While in prison for lying to police, Brazier told a girlfriend “there was nothing to worry about,” Elsey said. “He was wrong. You don't get away with murder just by getting rid of the body.”

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