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‘Clearfield Rapist’ arrested; police discuss details of nearly 30-year-old cold case

Posted at 4:55 PM, Sep 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 23:58:57-04

CLEARFIELD, Utah — After a nearly 30-year investigation, police are talking about what led up to the arrest they made Wednesday night on the man known as the “Clearfield Rapist.”

Capt. Timothy Scott with Ogden Police remembers being a brand new officer for Clearfield back in 1994 and responding to a sexual assault report — a case he’s kept with him for the past 25 years.

“This file has been within arms reach of me every office I’ve moved to,” Scott said.

The image stuck in his mind through all the years: a sketch drawn of the suspect.

Wednesday, Scott helped arrest Mark Douglas Burns, the man who police believe committed that assault and many others.

“His similarity to that composite sketch to me was uncanny,” he said.

After 25 years of DNA tests, multiple interviews of potential suspects who were cleared and even an agency that helped build a DNA family tree, police were finally led to a man they believed to be Burns' half brother.

The DNA swab confirmed their relationship and lead them to the suspect’s home in Clearfield where they surveyed him for about a week, then arrested him.

Chief Kelly Bennett with Clearfield Police said that arrest was a long time coming — a burden lifted off of police, and hopefully for victims too.

The work, though, is far from over.

“This case is just beginning now for us,” Bennett said. “There [are] tremendous follow-ups ... he is a long haul truck driver and has routes across the entire western United States.”

Bennett and his fellow investigators do not believe Burns stopped with his last known suspected assault in 2001.

Agencies across the western United States are encouraged to look through their cold cases to see if anything matches with Burns, said Chief Bennett.

Through their investigations over the years, police say they found sexual assaults linked to Burns in multiple locations:

  • 1991 in Rock Springs, Wyoming
  • 1992 in Riverdale, Utah
  • 1993 in Ogden, Utah
  • 1994 in Clearfield, Utah
  • 1995 in Clearfield, Utah
  • 1996 in Laramie, Wyoming
  • 1997 in Layton, Utah
  • 2000 in Clearfield, Utah
  • 2001 in Clearfield, Utah

“The level of brutality with this sexual assault, that stuck with me over the years,” Scott said.

Police said that through interviewing victims, they learned Burns had a pattern of entering through the sliding glass doors in locations that were usually apartment communities.

Binding his victims, sometimes using a weapon like a knife, police said victims remember the smell of alcohol, and that the sexual assault sometimes occurred over several hours.

“We can’t imagine the pains that the victims are feeling,” Bennett said. “There was some very different emotions yesterday, and we understand that.”

Burns faces the following charges in connection to the cases reported and investigated in 2000 and 2001 in Clearfield:

  • 8 counts of aggravated sexual assault
  • 6 counts of aggravated kidnapping
  • 2 counts of aggravated burglary
  • 1 count of aggravated robbery

Scott said sitting face-to-face with Burns while interviewing him was a surreal moment, and it brought some closure.

"I even told the suspect when he walked out of the room that I likely wouldn’t be seeing him again outside the court,” Scott said.

The file in his drawer can finally close, though the investigation is far from over.