Mark Douglas Burns was arrested for a series of violent home invasion rapes in Utah and Wyoming that took place between 1991 and 2001. In one case, Burns raped a mother and daughter in their home while the entire family was kidnapped, tied up at gun point, and forced to watch.
DNA was taken from the victims, and a profile developed from their sexual assault kits were uploaded to CODIS. This tied this series of rapes to a single suspect, who came to be known as the ‘Clearfield Rapist’.
The FGG investigation in this case was conducted by Barbara Rae-Venter. Police confirmed the results of the FGG investigation match through surreptitious sampling of items that Burns had discarded in his trash.
Burns was arrested at his Ogden home on September 25, 2019. Burns confessed to all of the rapes with which he was charged, but some of the cases did not go to court as the sexual assault charges were barred by the statute of limitations. Prosecutors had filed a DNA warrant in 2003 to stop the statute of limitations on only some of the rape charges. Burns was eventually sentenced to 242 years for the rapes. Burns has confessed to two other homicides, and the investigations into other crimes he may have committed are ongoing.
Burns is also charged in the 2001 murder of 28-year-old Sue Ellen Gunderson Higgins. Higgins was murdered in her home in Evanston, Wyoming on July 18 of 2001. Burns gained access to her house on the pretext of taking a survey. When she grew suspicious and stated she was phoning the police, he claims that he shot her. Facing the death penalty, Burns pled guilty to this offence and has received a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
This was not the first time that Burns faced the death penalty. He had earlier been convicted of raping a woman in the washroom of a McDonald’s restaurant in North Carolina. He had been on death row for this crime in the 1970s, but his sentence was commuted to life, and he was released after serving 13 years in prison.
Police stated that many suspects over the years were asked to provide police with their DNA and were subsequently cleared of involvement in the rapes.
Gunderson’s husband, Sen Higgins, found her body when he came home from work. In July of 2005 he was arrested and charged with that crime. There was little evidence linking him to his wife’s murder, but officers thought he did not show the proper emotion at her death. These charges were eventually dropped in March of 2006, after he had spent $70,000 on his defence.
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Herbets, Adam. “‘Clearfield Rapist’ Avoids Death Penalty in New Murder Case, Receives Life in Prison.” Fox 13 News, December 4, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://www.fox13now.com/news/local-news/clearfield-rapist-avoids-death-penalty-in-new-murder-case-receives-life-in-prison.
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Scholl, Jacob. “Wyoming Police Suspect Jailed Ogden Man in 2001 Homicide of Woman in Evanston.” Standard-Examiner, January 30, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://www.standard.net/police-fire/courts/wyoming-police-suspect-jailed-ogden-man-in-homicide-of-woman/article_85e18edb-eb7f-5e93-98cd-510142772f59.html.
Wells, David. “‘Clearview Rapist’ Pleads Guilty to 17 Charges.” Fox 13 News Salt Lake City, February 20, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://www.fox13now.com/news/local-news/clearfield-rapist-pleads-guilty-to-17-charges.
Wells, David, and Adam Herbets. “‘Clearfield Rapist’ Mark Burns Sentenced to 242 Years to Life in Prison.” Fox 13 News Salt Lake City, April 6, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://www.fox13now.com/news/local-news/clearfield-rapist-mark-burns-due-for-sentencing-monday.