FARMINGTON — An Ogden man dubbed the “Clearfield Rapist” stood in a Farmington courtroom Thursday and pleaded guilty to all 17 felonies levied against him.

Mark Douglas Burns, 69, pleaded guilty as charged to multiple counts of aggravated sex assault, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated burglary — all first-degree felonies.

The hearing was originally scheduled to debate a motion filed by Burns’ counsel to dismiss several charges. Instead, Burns stood alongside his attorney Colleen Coeburgh and indicated he would plead guilty to all 17 charges against him. Coeburgh said that she would also be withdrawing the motion to dismiss.

Judge John Morris read each of the 17 charges, and to each Burns replied simply, “guilty.”

Burns would later indicate that he would prefer to be sentenced at a later date, a move that prosecutors appreciated.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings told reporters afterward that they had anticipated to go forward and argue against the motion to dismiss, but was pleasantly surprised when he learned Thursday that Burns would be pleading guilty.

“We made no plea offers in the course of this case,” Rawlings said. “Our position was he has to plead guilty as charged to everything that we filed, we felt like we could prove every count.”

Rawlings went on to say that there was no reason or basis for plea negotiations, saying that the evidence they had was strong and witnesses were willing to testify if needed. But thankfully, he said, that was not necessary.

Rawlings was pleased that Burns opted to be sentenced another day, as that gives Burns’ victims the opportunity to be in court and have their voices be heard.

He added that prosecutors would be asking the judge to sentence Burns to consecutive prison terms, meaning the prison time for each charge would served back-to-back.

“Mark Burns needs to die in the Utah State Prison,” Rawlings said.

One of the handful of onlookers in attendance Thursday was Lynnette Griffith, a retired detective with the Rock Springs Police Department in Wyoming.

Griffith was the main investigator for a rape case in June of 1991 that ultimately went cold; the assailant in the case sexually assaulted a girl under the age of 18. That is, until Burns’ arrest. The Ogden resident has been linked to unsolved Wyoming rape cases in Rock Springs and Laramie.

“It was satisfying in a way that he would at least plead guilty now, take accountability and responsibility for what he did to people in the past because he could have dragged this out for years,” Griffith said.

Burns, who has been held at the Davis County Jail without bail for months, was arrested in September after he was linked via familial DNA to several open rape cases throughout Utah and Wyoming. Years prior in 2003, Davis County prosecutors filed sexual assault charges linked to a DNA profile, but could not connect a specific person to the profile.

During a press conference after Burns’ arrest, law enforcement officials from around Utah and Wyoming detailed how their investigation led to Burns.

Behind Clearfield Police Chief Kelly Bennett at the press conference were officers from departments in Ogden, Layton, Riverdale, and Rock Springs and Laramie, Wyoming.

Bennett said a Utah State Crime Lab scientist’s investigation identified a distant relative of Burns’, then she built a family tree and narrowed her search to a half brother of Burns.

Bennett said the nine cases linked to Burns had similar descriptions, including that most victims lived in apartments with sliding glass doors that he apparently forced open. He said the suspect was typically armed with a knife or gun and would bind the victims before repeatedly raping them over long periods.

More recently, police in Evanston, Wyoming publicly linked Burns to a cold case homicide that took place in their city in 2001.

In July 2001, police discovered the body of 28-year-old Sue Ellen Higgins, whom police say was killed in her Evanston home. A lack of evidence proved the case difficult to solve, and the case went cold but remained an active investigation.

Evanston police said in a press release in January that they were contacted by police in Utah about Higgins’ death. The release said Burns has “provided material information about this cold case during multiple interviews with Utah authorities and Evanston Detectives.”

When reached by phone Thursday, a representative from the Uinta County Attorney’s Office in Wyoming confirmed that Burns has been charged in connection with Higgins’ murder.

Burns will remain in the custody of the Davis County Jail. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 6 in Farmington’s 2nd District Court.

Jacob Scholl is the Cops and Courts Reporter for the Standard-Examiner. Email him at jscholl@standard.net and follow him on Twitter at @Jacob_Scholl.

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