Zion Foster trial: Testimony resumes after salacious texts, search history revealed in court

The murder trial of Jaylin Brazier resumes Wednesday after salacious text messages and internet searches made by the defendant were revealed during court testimony on Tuesday.

Pornography and suggestive messages between Brazier and the victim Zion Foster were among the exhibits shown to the jury on the seventh day of trial. A forensic pathologist was also called to the stand to discuss Foster's health records where she detailed drugs that she had been prescribed and illnesses she had been diagnosed with. 

Based on years of data, there is only one condition that Foster suffered that could have killed her suddenly, which was asthma. But even that comes with some signs of struggle before someone might die.

You can watch our gavel-to-gavel coverage in the player above, on FOX2Detroit.com, and FOX 2's YouTube channel. Brazier's trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. He's charged with killing the Eastpointe teen who went missing in January 2022.

"So it's the antithesis of falling asleep. I mean, you are struggling to breathe. You're breathing fast. You know, if you have your inhalers, you are using it. I think to every person observing someone in an asthma attack, it's clear that something is wrong and going on," said pathologist Leigh Hlavaty.

Brazier, who has already been convicted for lying to police, has contended he and Foster were smoking marijuana when she died suddenly. He admitted he panicked and dumped her body in a dumpster.

Assistant Prosecutor Brian Elsey represents Wayne County and Brazier is represented by defense attorney Brian Brown.

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Wednesday morning's trial started with attorneys discussing certain pieces of testimony that have come up over the past few days and how the jury will consider them. We expect to hear more about that during jury instructions.

2:31 p.m. - Jaylin Brazier will not testify

Brazier was sworn in, without the jury present, and said he understood his rights not to testify in his case and is choosing not to do so.

Both the prosecution and defense said they were ready for closing arguments. However, Elsey said his closing arguments were more than an hour long. Brown said his closing arguments were closer to 30 minutes. 

With respect to the time of all parties involved, Judge Donald Knapp said court will resume Thursday morning.

2:25 p.m. - The prosecution rests

After 32 witnesses, prosecutor Elsey rested his case.

The jury was dismissed and the defense asked for a directed verdict. However, the judge rejected the motion.

Brown said he has no intentions of calling any witnesses.

2:05 p.m. - Catherine Guillaumin returns to the stand

After an hour-long lunch break, Catherine Guillaumin returned to testify.

She was asked about why the charges were filed against Brazier, she testified the murder charge came after a witness came forward.

Brown then asked Guillaumin about a witness being threatened, to which she said it would be signifcant.

11:12 a.m. - Detroit Police Detective Catherine Guillaumin

The 32nd witness from Elsey is Detroit Police Detective Catherine Guillaumin, the lead detective in the case against Brazier.

Guillaumin started by testifying about Foster's Instagram account and what was posted. She also discussed Foster's bank accounts and transactions that happened in January 2022. 

She also went over search history that was covered in previous testimony – including about trash trucks as compactors, how police track your phone, how police can track a missing person, and whether police can take a phone without a warrant.

Guillaumin also discusses two pornography videos that were on one of the phones that were taken from Brazier after his arrest. In the video, one shows an adult film depiction of a sexual assault. The other video is posed family members engaging in sex acts that Guillaumin said depict ‘rape-style’ intercourse. She then discussed other comics that were found on the phone that she said depicted rape.

Guillaumin then was asked about Katrina Smith, Brazier's girlfriend. She testified that she was unable to subpoena Smith for the trial for weeks before she ultimately was subpoenaed for the preliminary hearing in August 2023 – two months after Brazier was arrested.

She testified that she never blackmailed or forced Smith to testify in the case. 

Guillaumin detailed the search of the Macomb County landfill and testified about Foster's history. 

In all of the phone searches that Elsey has presented, Guillaumin said she reviewed all of and there were no searches for ‘why a young woman might die suddenly’. 

Guillaumin discussed the media attention on the case, which dates back to January 2022 when Foster disappeared. 

In October 2022, after the landfill search, Brazier called Smith from the jail and asked ‘is there anything major’. Elsey asked Guillaumin if there was anything major going on in the fall of 2022.

"The landfill search was coming to an end," Guillaumin testified.

Under cross-examination, Brown began asking questions about the search warrant and what was found on January 17 in the search of Brazier's home.

Brown was interested in questions about a jar of marijuana and why police didn't find it during a search of the home. The jar was present when police took a photograph inside the home during the primary search – but not during a secondary search.

He also asked about video footage of a car at the dumpster where Brazier said he placed Foster's body after she died. Brown questioned if Guillaumin knew for certain if it was Brazier that came back to the dumpster the next day - but she said only that a car that resembled Brazier's pulled up. 

Brown asked if that video was presented to the jury as being proof that Brazier was there.

"I don't believe that was indicated," she said. "It is possible that the same exact time his phone shows to be there that a car shows up at the exact same time."

Brown questioned why forensic techs had not used luminol to search for DNA evidence. Guillaumin said she had the authority to do so – but did not.

"It's a team effort. I have to rely on experts, the FBI, a canine, and other people because I'm not an expert in every field," Guillaumin said. "I have to fill out a form, with evidence, and give to a forensic scientist and tell the story of what we recovered."

She added that, as much as she can suggest searching for things, others can suggest steps as well.

Guillaumin testified she was aware of Foster's antidepressant medications. 

Brown asked Guillaumin about her interview of Foster's boyfriend, Vertez Gonzalez, prior to the preliminary exam for this trial. Brown seemed to take issue with Guillaumin not recording the interview with Gonzalez - either on paper, video, or audio. 

After a brief court break, Guillaumin was asked if she ever talked with Gonzalez about Foster's threats to kill herself.

"I believe that was in the interview that was conducted at his home," she said. "That one was recorded. That's on body camera. I asked about any there was again, any time in investigation, especially at this magnitude, things keep coming up. So you have to follow up and do more investigations. There was tips or anything will come in. And there was something about her taking pills and taking pills to kill herself. I think I believe I remember taking pills. Majority of that. So that was recorded on body cam. And he said, no, there wasn't anything she was taking any pills. She wasn't trying to kill herself."

She speculated that Foster didn't intend she actually wanted to kill herself.

Brown asked about the pornography websites that Brazier visited on his phone in June 2023, 

10:14 a.m. Michael Solberg from Wayne County Sheriff's Office 

The 31st witness to testify was Michael Solberg with internal affairs at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office. Part of Solberg's job is to monitor phone calls made by inmates inside the jail. 

Solberg said officers are able to trace phone calls made by inmates – based on PINs assigned to the inmates.

As part of the investigation, Solberg searched for phone numbers placed by inmates in the jail. He testified that Brazier made hundreds of phone calls in the Wayne County Jail. He also placed many phone calls to his now ex-girlfriend, Katrina Smith.

Additionally, other inmates' accounts were used to make phone calls as well.

A total of seven phone calls that were made from the Wayne County Jail – dating back to Aug. 9, 2023 – were played in court.

The first call was between Brazier and Smith. Smith is expressing concern about being subpoenaed while Brazier urges her to calm down. 

In the second call played, Brazier tells Smith she's going to be used by the prosecution in the case against him.

"Since he don't have nothing, he's going to use me to get you?" Smith asked.

In January of 2024, Brazier made another call from the jail to Smith. He urges Smith not to be at the trial.

"As good as you can, don't be there," he said.

Back in December, Brazier used another inmate's account to place a call to Smith. In that call, he told her to look up ‘the positives and negatives of recanting a statement in a criminal case’.

In January 2024, he again used another inmate's account to call Smith. The jury was asked to leave the courtroom as the call was played in the court outside of their presence. 

The prosecutor wanted to introduce the call as saying that Brazier was trying to manipulate the system, presumably by using another inmate's account.

Later in the call, the two can be heard talking about whether Brazier should take a plea. Brown argues that the call includes hearsay that the jury shouldn't have to consider.

In that call, Brazier can be heard saying that his chances of trial are ‘suicide’. Elsey argues that Brazier only said that during this call because he was using another inmate's account and believed he was ‘safe’ from being heard by the prosecution.

Ultimately, the prosecution decided to just play the first 36 seconds of the call, which Elsey claims shows how Brazier was trying to manipulate the system.

The last call played was made to a different phone number and called in March 2024. Brazier can be heard telling the person on the other line not to use his name – and said he wanted to talk about what was going on. 

That call was almost entirely inaudible and the defense interjected. The two attorneys approached and the prosecution was finished questioning the witness. The defense had no questions and the judge called a short recess.

10 a.m. - Detective Erik Franti returns to the stand

Franti was on the stand at the end of the day on Tuesday to discuss the adult websites that Brazier was accessing on his phones. The adult websites included the terms ‘black cousin’, which Brazier had typed in himself.

This was determined by the URL, which included ‘?k=’ in the URL. Franti said that determined that Brazier had searched for the terms and for videos posted in the past 3 months

The prosecution finished questions and the defense started. Brian Brown questioned when Franti accessed the URL and what he learned – which Franti said was Tuesday night. This was after he took the stand for the beginning of his testimony.

"Why would you do the analysis before yesterday or last night on this particular information?" Brown asked. 

Franti said he had other cases to work on.

He also said he learned that ‘?k=’ means keywords by Googling the term ‘What does question mark K equals mean in a URL’.

Brown questioned whether Franti didn't do a more thorough review of Brazier's phone and sites visits. Franti maintained he did as was asked of him.

What happened to Zion Foster?

Foster was last seen by her mom, Ciera Milton, on Jan. 4, 2022.

Milton said Foster was picked up by her cousin at his home in Detroit to smoke marijuana. Milton said Foster texted her later saying she was coming home, but never did. When she started searching and couldn't find her, she went to Eastpointe Police and then Detroit Police, who eventually went to Brazier's home in Detroit and talked to him. 

Foster's phone last pinged in Detroit – which is what prompted Detroit Police to show up at Brazier's door.

Milton recalls Brazier telling her "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."

Milton said Brazier showed her surveillance footage, but there were gaps in the recordings. She filled in those gaps from a Ring doorbell camera that showed someone believed to be Brazier picking up Foster at her house in Eastpointe the night of her disappearance and bringing her back to his house.

Then, she said, she and others searched the area around Brazier's home.

"That prompted me to go to Jaylin's house. We searched the neighborhood, we looked through abandoned houses, we looked through dumpsters," she said.

Brazier was arrested 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. 

"I was on panic mode ever since that happened," Brazier said in court in 2022. "Her mother at one point talked to me, and I couldn't bring myself to (tell her) 'Your daughter just died.' What do I do?"

In March 2022, Brazier admitted to lying to Eastpointe Police about the investigation. 

"I can't even explain it, what happened. I can just tell you my honest reaction," Brazier claimed in court in March 2022. "One minute she was cool, she was fine. She laid back for a minute and the next thing I knew she was just dead. I don't know what caused it, I did not cause it."

Detroit Police Department spent several months in 2022 picking through tons of trash at a Macomb County landfill, but Foster's body was never found. The search was ultimately called off in October 2022.

'He threw her in a dumpster'

Brazier's story changed wildly over the first few months of the investigation. He first said that he didn't know where she was before ultimately admitting they had been together and that she had died with him as they were smoking marijuana. He then later said he put her body in a dumpster. 

"He said that my baby just died, and then that he threw her in a dumpster, like she was trash," Foster's mom said.

He did not say that he killed her.

"I reacted stupidly off of fear and panic like I've never felt before in my life," he said in court during his sentencing for the initial charge of lying to police.

Detroit Police then spent the summer of 2022 searching through a Macomb County landfill as that's where it was believed her body ultimately would have been when the dumpster was emptied. After several months of searching, they were unable to find her remains or evidence of her remains.

But a year after the search, in June 2023, Brazier was charged with her murder but maintained his innocence.

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 2022, he was sentenced to between 23 months to 4 years in prison.

Brazier's release and charges

In January 2023, Brazier was released from custody after completing just 10 months of his sentence. The 23-year-old completed a 90-day Special Incarceration Program - essentially a boot camp program - which granted his release. 

In August 2023, Brazier returned to a Wayne County courtroom for his preliminary hearing, which stretched over two days. 

He sat in court emotionless during the hearing as details emerged about Zion’s bank accounts and text messages — prosecutors say — Brazier shared with his girlfriend.

One of those messages included a link to a Google search that questioned if someone could be charged for murder if a body isn't discovered.

After two days of testimony, Brazier was bound over for trial.