CLEARFIELD — An Ogden man accused of raping at least nine women in Utah and Wyoming used a “methodical approach” to find victims in apartments with sliding glass doors, Clearfield Police Chief Kelly Bennett said Thursday.
Clearfield officers arrested Mark Douglas Burns, 69, Wednesday after more than 25 years of investigation capped by DNA matches linking him to the series of attacks from 1991 to 2001.
When officers approached Burns, “He asked why” they wanted to talk to him, Bennett said.
“He was calm,” the chief said of the long-haul trucker.
At a city hall news conference, Bennett — backed by the lead investigator, Clearfield’s Josh Carlson, and officers from Ogden, Layton, Riverdale, and Rock Springs and Laramie, Wyoming — detailed the years of investigation that led them to Burns.
He said Laramie and Rock Springs authorities are preparing charges against Burns, and Ogden, Layton and Riverdale police are reviewing their cases that have DNA links to Burns.
Burns was arrested Wednesday and charged with 17 first-degree felonies related to attacks in 2000 and 2001 in Clearfield in which three women were raped. Bennett said Burns also is suspected in Clearfield rapes in 1994 and 1995.
“This case has just begun for us,” Bennett said, because investigators expect more unsolved rapes around the West will be linked to Burns as more agencies test rape kits.
“The whole process has changed,” Ogden investigations commander Tim Scott said regarding DNA technology advances, plus strong victims’ advocate programs and widespread emphasis on clearing rape kit backlogs.
Asked about controversy over certain aspects of DNA criminology, Bennett said, “We are very confident Mark Burns is our suspect. Otherwise we would not have made an arrest.”
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 urged other victims of unsolved rapes to contact police, adding that his agency is “victim centric” and will be working closely with Burns’ alleged victims to help them achieve some closure.
“Because of the grievous and brutal nature of these crimes, detectives believe there are more victims and do not believe Mr. Burns suddenly stopped committing such heinous crimes since 2001,” police said in a news release Wednesday.
Bennett said the nine cases so far linked to Burns had common elements including that most victims lived in apartments with sliding glass doors that he apparently forced open. The assailant used a knife or a firearm, bound and blindfolded victims, and repeatedly raped them over sometimes hours-long periods.
In some cases, people with the victims were bound and forced to watch the attacks, police said.
Burns was convicted of rape in North Carolina in 1974 and served a prison term before moving to Utah, the Davis County Attorney’s Office said in a court document.
Through additional DNA testing, the half brother was eliminated as a suspect, and police learned Burns lived in Ogden.
Police put Burns under surveillance and collected items from his trash and sent them to the Wyoming state crime lab.
That lab reported to Clearfield officers on Sept. 20 that all samples matched the DNA from the rape cases.
In Davis County, Burns faces eight charges of aggravated sexual abuse, six counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated robbery.
He is held without bail in the Davis County Jail.