“We are in the right area’: mail discovered by crews encourages massive search effort for Zion Foster’s remains in Macomb County landfill

Chief James White said search efforts to recover the body of missing teen Zion Foster were given a boost after crews discovered mail from Detroit among 20 feet of trash above their "target area" in a Macomb County landfill.
Photo credit Detroit Police Department

LENOX TOWNSHIP (WWJ) - Detroit Police Chief James White said search efforts to recover the body of missing teen Zion Foster were given a boost after crews discovered mail from Detroit among 20 feet of trash above their "target area" in a Macomb County landfill.

“If the victim is here, this is the area she will likely be in," White said in a press conference from the Pine Tree Acres Landfill in Lenox Township.

The extensive search effort called "Operation Justice for Zion" began its first phase four days ago after countless assessments, conversations and meetings narrowed down a 100 ft by 100 ft area of interest in the Macomb County landfill.

DPD Cmdr. Michael McGinnis said searchers have been digging out layers of trash in order to get to the target area. The garbage collected is then brought to a site and spread out where crews sift through the rubbish to find clues.

McGinnis said on Friday that responders discovered discarded mail from an area in Detroit where they believed Zion's body had been put in a dumpster.

“We are confident that the information we have is accurate and we’re in the right place," McGinnis said.

White said experts and law enforcement poured over dump dates, camera activity and garbage collection dates in Detroit to create the target area and the mail is a significant finding.

Michigan CAT has provided some of the heavy equipment necessary to complete Phase 1, which is expected to conclude on June 15.

Overall, the search effort could take up to two months, White said.

“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to bring some degree of closure and justice to this family," White said.

Operation Justice for Zion contained many hurdles from the start, ranging from the staggering cost to how the department could summon the manpower to enact the search effort among dangerous materials in the landfill, but White said local, state and federal partners stepped up and came together "to bring closure to that family."

"This has never been done at DPD," White explained. "This is an unknown circumstance taking on something like this."

Safety hazards face searchers in the "pit," White said. Crews are outfitted with airtight hazmat suits that must be cut off of them when they're finished with their shifts. White said a number of dangerous materials and carcinogens are among the garbage and considerable time and effort went into making sure searchers stay safe.

“The cost is significant, we are well over $200,000 and still going, but we have great support from the community," White said.

The search will continue and White said updates will be provided weekly. Any substantial finds will be announced sooner.

Despite the cost, the dangers and the exhaustive search, White thanked the officers who volunteered their time and DPD's partners who made donations through the Public Safety Foundation.

White said he will do everything “to bring closure to that family, to be in law enforcement and to be a dad, this is the right thing to do.”

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Detroit Police Department