Zion Foster search: Detroit police chief 'preparing for a discussion' with family as dig enters week 9

Chief James White commissioned a search team of 70 people to look for the body of Zion Foster. 

Detroit Police Chief James White said he could not be more proud of his officers and their efforts in the search for a missing 17-year-old girl from Eastpointe, but that he was "preparing for a discussion" with the victim's family next week.

The search for Zion Foster has included two months of digging through a landfill in Lenox Township in Macomb County by Detroit police who took over the pursuit for her body earlier this year. 

Foster's cousin, Jaylin Brazier was the last individual with the teen before she went missing. He's since pleaded no contest to charges of lying to police during an investigation.

Police began combing through the landfill on May 31. About 70 officials, 40 searchers and 30 additional employees have all taken part in the search. They originally picked a section of the landfill about 100 square feet large.  

White said his officers had spent the past eight weeks working through 90-degree days and digging in the dump, being "exposed to really bad things. All kinds of garbage and food and rodents."

"It's worth it if we find her, but we're at a point now where I have to look at the likelihood of recovery, the risk of the officers and have an assessment of where we are and where we go from here," he said.

White previously alluded to having make a tough call about the search earlier this week, saying "(It's) a decision I dread, but I have to make a really tough decision. I'm going to do that but I'm going to do it with the parents in mind with the sensitivity that's necessary to deliver such a message to a parent."

What happened to Zion Foster?

Zion Foster

Zion Foster

Zion Foster was last seen by her mom, Ciera Milton, on Jan. 5, 2022. 

Milton said Zion was picked up by her cousin, Jaylin Brazier, to hang out at a home on Detroit's west side. But, she never made it back to her mom, who lives in Eastpointe.  

Brazier, who’s also her ex-husband’s cousin, picked Zion up from their Eastpointe home to hang out, something they did often.

Ciera tracked Zion’s location through her phone’s GPS and saw she was near the Seven Mile and Greenfield area on Detroit’s west side where Brazier lived.

Zion texted her later saying she was coming home, but never did.

Ciera called Brazier who she claims said, "He told me he hadn’t seen or been in contact with her 'for three years' which is impossible when you were in my driveway and gave me a hug."

Brazier was arrested just a few days after Foster disappeared. He was initially arrested for lying to police during the investigation and ultimately pleaded no contest, as part of a plea deal.

'He threw her in a dumpster'

Milton said in February that Brazier told her that Zion was dead and that he threw in a dumpster. He did not say that he killed her.

"He said that my baby just died, and then that he threw her in a dumpster, like she was trash," Ciera Milton said.

Brazier admitted he found Zion dead, but he's not charged with her murder. Instead, Braizer admits he threw the dead body in a dumpster.

"I reacted stupidly off of fear and panic like I've never felt before in my life," he said in court during his sentencing.

Milton said she did not believe Brazier.

"It wasn't too long ago that I saw you and even knowing that my baby had been in contact with him, I kept going to his house. I just wanted him to tell me the truth," said Milton.

In March, he was sentenced to between 23 months to 4 years in prison.

Are they searching the right landfill?

Based on information from Brazier, police believe the victim's body was placed in a dumpster before it was taken to Pine Tree Acres Landfill, on 29 Mile Road. 

The process of searching for Zion's remains started with removing 20 feet of what police called ‘unfocused’ material. However, they are inspecting the content as they're looking through the material. 

White said during one of those searches, they found a piece of mail that is from Detroit, leading them to be confident they were searching in the right area.

White said that they are searching a specific 100x100 area that Waste Management and the landfill will help them determine is the most likely area where Zion's remains are.

As of Aug. 1, her remains have not been found.