Cops say they’ve got man responsible for decades-old rape cases in WY, UT

SWEETWATER COUNTY, Wyo. – Police say they’ve caught a man who they believe responsible for terrorizing neighborhoods in Utah and Wyoming, raping as many as nine women, likely more, over a nearly two-decade crime spree.

Investigators arrested long-haul trucker Mark Douglas Burns, 69, at his home in Ogden, Utah without incident on Wednesday, September 25. The investigation was a cooperative effort by Rock Springs, Laramie, Layton, UT, Ogden, UT, Riverdale, UT, and Clearfield, UT police departments.

Piecing together a case

In June of 1991, the family of a juvenile female reported that an unknown man crawled through the girls’ bedroom window and forcibly raped the girl at gunpoint. After the assault was complete, the man left through the same window and ran away. At that time there were few leads developed however physical evidence including suspected semen was found at the scene. At that time DNA processing was in its infancy and only a blood type of the suspect was immediately identified.

In 2007, the semen sample was reexamined by the Wyoming State Crime Lab at which time a DNA profile was identified and entered into the CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System). Almost immediately, that profile was matched with two additional DNA profiles—one from Ogden, UT and the other from Clearfield, UT—that took place in the 1990s and early 2000s. A Detective with RSPD made contact with investigators in those cases at which time an MO (Modus Operandi) was established and a Cold Case Task Force was unofficially formed.

The suspect in these cases was found to enter residences through unlocked windows or sliding glass doors during the night, and awaken the victims. He would then bind them, blindfold them, and sexually assault them for between 15 minutes and two hours, often while other family members were present in the residence and sometimes even in the room. The suspect would then leave, often leaving little evidence other than biological evidence in the form of semen or saliva.

Between 2007 and 2012, several more cases were entered into CODIS by other agencies and the following related cases were identified.

As a result of those additional DNA hits, a Cold Case Task Force was organized and began follow-up on previously unknown information. In 2015, the case was featured on the television program Cold Justice-Sex Crimes when investigators spent two weeks going through available leads. A press conference was held that time that led to over 200 new leads being developed that were followed up on. Many people believed the suspect to be their neighbor, brother, uncle, father, or friend. None of those leads led to identification of the suspect.  During that two-week investigative session, a ninth case out of Riverdale, UT was found via VICAP, and a rushed DNA exam determined the suspect to be the same DNA contributor as the others.

This would be identified as the youngest victim to date.  A witness in that case observed a man leaving the apartment complex the girl lived in, in what he thought was a Pontiac Firebird.

As a result of the multiple DNA hits, that DNA Profile was provided to a Genealogy examiner who was able to determine a family line, and ultimately a male DNA profile of a man who lived in the Clearfield, UT area.

A sample of that man’s DNA was obtained surreptitiously and processed. The man’s DNA was not that of the suspect, but was close enough that the suspect family member could be tentatively identified by name, as Mark Douglas Burns. A sample of Mark Burns’ DNA was obtained, also surreptitiously and rushed to the Wyoming State Crime Lab where they were able to process, and positively match that DNA sample to the previously unknown suspect within hours.

Investigators, now knowing the identity of the suspect then began follow up information including tracking locations of where Burns had been over the past 28 years, his criminal history, and work history. After the preliminary information was complied, those investigators gathered in Clearfield, Utah to surveil, and make contact with Burns at his residence on September 25. Burns was arrested without incident.

This investigation is ongoing. Based on timelines and other information yet to be released, investigators believe Burns to have other victims. (Multiple cases in the state of Utah have been reported with similar MO’s, however DNA was not available for testing in those cases).

Police urge, if you know the suspect or have any other information pertaining to Burns, please contact Sgt. Tim Robinson or the Detective Division at the Rock Springs Police Department. If you live in another jurisdiction, please contact your local authorities.

More information will be available as this case proceeds through the legal system, and all suspects are considered innocent, until proven guilty in a court of law.

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