Suspected Utah rapist tied to Wyoming killing

Jan 31, 2020, 9:14 AM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:25 am
suspected rapist...
69-year-old Mark Douglas Burns. (PHOTO: Courtesy of the Davis County Sheriff's Office)
(PHOTO: Courtesy of the Davis County Sheriff's Office)

OGDEN, Utah — Police are connecting a cold case murder in Wyoming to a suspected serial rapist from Ogden.

69-year-old Mark Douglas Burns, formerly known as “John Doe,” worked as a long-haul truck driver.

In 2003, officials decided to file criminal charges against his DNA.

Identifying John Doe

Utah authorities say they first identified Burns because of a breakthrough from the Wyoming State Crime Lab.

Their investigators were able to link the same person to assaults in Clearfield in 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2001; Rock Springs, Wyoming, in 1991; Riverdale in 1992; Ogden in 1993; Laramie, Wyoming, in 1996; and Layton in 1997.

Ogden Police Captain Timothy Scott was working for Clearfield Police at the time of the attacks, but never got his man. He says the assaults haunted him for decades because he felt police were so close.

“This file has been within an arm’s reach of me in every office I’ve moved to, which has been dozens of offices,” Scott said.

According to charging documents in Utah, Burns was convicted of rape in North Carolina in 1974. As a result, he served a “lengthy prison sentence.”

Once the information came in from Wyoming, prosecutors amended the charges to include his name. Those charges include eight counts of aggravated sexual assault, six counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated robbery. Those are all first-degree felonies.

Cracking a cold case

Now, the roles have reversed. The Evanston Police Department and Uinta County (Wyoming) Attorney’s Office have received information from Utah authorities that they say could connect Burns to a 2001 cold case murder.

A statement from Evanston Police indicates someone decided to kill 28-year-old Sue Ellen Higgins in her home.

While the Evanston Police Department investigated this case thoroughly, the lack of evidence prohibited resolution and the case became an inactive cold case.

According to Evanston Police, Utah authorities contacted them about the case roughly a month ago. They say the suspected rapist has “provided material information about this cold case during multiple interviews with Utah authorities and Evanston detectives.”

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Suspected Utah rapist tied to Wyoming killing