Officer Kept Serial Rapist Case Close To His Vest, Held Out Hope For Over 20 Years

Sep 26, 2019, 9:21 PM
A police sketch and mug shot of Mark burns, who was arrested on Wednesday and faces multiple sexual...
A police sketch and mug shot of Mark burns, who was arrested on Wednesday and faces multiple sexual assault charges.

CLEARFIELD, Utah – Thanks to DNA databases and the help of a genetic genealogist, investigators from several different agencies said they were able to tie nine cases, including eight sexual assaults, to 69-year-old Mark Douglas Burns of Ogden. Years before DNA evidence came into play, detectives said they had little to work with.

“All of those cases shared similar modus operandi, such as the victims being bound, repeated sexual assaults over an extended period of time, the smell of an alcoholic beverage, victims living in apartment communities, the suspect utilizing sliding glass doors, the use of a firearm or knife, and other personal characteristics and crime scene evidence,” said Clearfield Police Chief Kelly Bennett at a press conference Wednesday.

Among the officers there was Timothy Scott. Now a Captain with the Ogden Police Department, Scott interviewed sexual assault survivors connected to the case very early in his career.

“It was shocking to me; the level of brutality in the sexual assault,” Scott said. “That stuck with me over the years. You don’t often see it at the level this individual acted on these victims and the type of victims. So yeah, there was an exceptional brutality to this particular suspect.”

The case stuck with him enough so that he kept his files on it close to him for more than 20 years.

“This file has been within arm’s reach of me, every office I’ve moved to, which has been dozens of offices,” Scott said. “I was confident. I assumed I would be retired by the time it happened, but I was confident they would break the case.”

An arrest warrant was filed in Utah Second District Court in 2003, tying two of the sexual assault cases to a specific DNA profile with no name. Bennett said that was done to keep the statute of limitations from expiring. Recently, with the help of a genetic genealogist, investigators were led to a distant relative of that profile, and then to a half-brother of Mark Douglas Burns. Investigators later gathered further DNA samples from Burns’s garbage, which led to his arrest.

“The case has just moved forward, leaps and bounds, with the advent of DNA, and the tenacity of these new detectives. It’s great to see,” Scott said.

After the arrest, Scott had a chance to talk with Burns in an interrogation room.

“It was surreal to sit across from that suspect; having looked at a composite sketch for the last quarter-century,” Scott said. “His similarity to that composite sketch to me was uncanny.”

Scott didn’t share many details of the conversation but said he told Burns one thing.

“Sitting across from the suspect in the interview room, there was a feeling and a sense of closure on the case,” Scott said. “I even told the suspect as he exited the room that I likely wouldn’t be seeing him again outside the court.”

Burns faces several charges, including eight for sexual assault, and six for kidnapping. Bennett said additional cases were being screened, which may also be tied to Burns soon. He also urged other departments to check over their cold cases for similarities.


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Officer Kept Serial Rapist Case Close To His Vest, Held Out Hope For Over 20 Years