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'Clearfield Rapist' avoids death penalty in new murder case, receives life in prison

Mark Douglas Burns confessed to 2001 murder of Sue Ellen Gunderson Higgins to FOX 13 earlier this year
Utah man arrested in connection with serial rapes going back nearly 30 years
Posted at 10:44 AM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 16:01:54-05

EVANSTON, Wyo. — Mark Douglas Burns has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2001 murder of Sue Ellen Gunderson Higgins in Evanston, Wyoming.

The ruling dashed Burns’ hopes of receiving the death penalty.

Judge Joseph Bluemel agreed with prosecutors, that a death sentence would not be an appropriate punishment for the crime.

WATCH: FOX 13 Investigates: A serial killer’s confession

Earlier this year, Burns was arrested in Ogden, Utah and identified as a serial rape cold case suspect known as the Clearfield Rapist.

The Clearfield Rapist was wanted for 11 sexual assaults between 1991 and 2001. The known victims ranged in age from 11 years old to 52 years old.

The 2001 murder in Evanston, Wyoming is one of many crimes Burns confessed to FOX 13 investigative reporter Adam Herbets earlier this year in a series of jailhouse interviews.

When Burns had the opportunity to address the court, he kept his comments brief, apologizing to “the friends and family of Mrs. Higgins.”

WATCH: FOX 13 Investigates: The rapist who beat death row

“My confessing to this crime does not fix what I did,” Burns said. “Nothing ever could.”

Burns was also ordered to pay $7,200 of restitution to Higgins’ family for the cost of the funeral and carpet replacement in the home.

In 2005, Sean Higgins was arrested and falsely accused for the murder of his wife. Prosecutors eventually dropped all charges.

Judge Bluemel said he could not compensate Sean Higgins for the more than $70,000 he paid in legal defense fees.

Burns is also facing a sentence of 242 years to life for the rapes in Utah.