The Justice Files: Clearfield rapist pleads guilty

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FARMINGTON, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – 69-year-old Mark Burns admitted to attacking, kidnapping and raping women.

The cases remain unsolved for nearly two decades.

In a surprising development Thursday afternoon, the so-called “Clearfield serial rapist” pleaded guilty to all 17 charges filed against him last year.

Burns was facing charges of rape, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, and burglary. Some of the cases go back to the 1990s but the statute of limitations expired. He was only charged with cases that occurred in 2000 and 2001.

In September, he was formally charged in Davis County after family DNA tied him to the multiple cases.

The former truck driver appeared in court in Davis County Thursday. It was supposed to be a routine motion hearing. His attorney had filed a motion to dismiss all charges, but Burns didn’t want that.

Instead, he wanted the case against him over with. Once the judge was satisfied that he was aware of the consequences, each of the counts was read.

Judge John Morris: The count of aggravated sexual assault, how do you plead?”
Burns: “Guilty your honor.”

To the rape charges: “Guilty your honor,” replied Burns.

It put an end of nearly two decades of searching for the so-called Clearfield rapist.

“It’s not that it was a shock to us,” said Troy Rawlings, the Davis County attorney. “We didn’t expect it was necessarily going to happen today. We didn’t know that day would be today.

Last week, Burns was charged with the 2001 murder of Sue Higgins of Evanston, Wyoming.

Retired detective Lynnette Griffith of Rock Springs Wyoming attended Thursday’s hearing. She worked the rape case of a 14-year-old for more than a decade but was never able to solve it.

“After all these years it gnaws at you,” said Griffith. “When you retire, it’s like I didn’t finish that. So you failed, you failed.”

But back then Griffith never had DNA at her fingertips. She now expects Burns to return to Wyoming and face rape charges.

“It’s satisfying,” she said.

None of the victims were in the courtroom to hear Burns admit guilt, but they’ll soon learn they’ve been spared from testifying and re-living these vicious crimes.

“These are people from our community who 20 years ago were traumatized,” said deputy Davis County attorney. “They are very eager to get this resolved and get some justice.”

Burns will be sentenced on April 6. Most of the 17 charges carry a term of 15-years-to-life in prison.

“Mark Burns needs to die in the Utah state prison,” said Rawlings.

It will be up to the judge to decide if they should run concurrently (all at once) or consecutively.

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