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Investigators describe how DNA evidence led to suspected serial rapist

(Clearfield Police Chief Kelly Bennett, describing the investigation. Credit: Paul Nelson)

CLEARFIELD – Police say they’re thrilled a suspected serial rapist is behind bars, but, they say they still have a mountain of work left to do.

Geneticists solved these cases, according to police.  Clearfield Police Chief Kelly Bennett says a geneticist took a sample from a rape in 2001 and created a genetic family tree.  They found similar markers between their sample and a man who submitted a sample on a family search website.

“He was in the database on a website saying, ‘Help me find my [biological] grandma,” he says.

That man turned out to be a second cousin, twice removed, from their suspect, Mark Douglas Burns.

(Davis County Jail)

After that, they were able to narrow down their search to Burn’s half-brother, then Burns himself.  Since he was a long-haul trucker that covered most western U.S. states, Bennett says they believe there could be other attacks that happened since 2001.

“We don’t believe he stopped.  We don’t have any evidence one way or the other, but, we don’t believe he did.  That’s part of our investigation.  We want to happen what has happened since 2001,” Bennett says.

Burns’ DNA has linked him to rapes in Ogden, Clearfield, Layton and Riverdale, as well as Laramie and Rock Springs, Wyoming.  Lynnette Griffith was the investigator for Burns’ alleged first attack in 1991 in Rock Springs.  She says this case has been deeply personal to her.

Griffith says, “This was a break-in at the house of a young girl who was 14.  She was bound with duct tape with a sock stuck in her mouth.  He had a gun.  That just should never happen to a child.  It shouldn’t happen to anybody.”

Ogden Police Captain Timothy Scott was working for Clearfield Police at the time of the attacks.  He says they’ve been haunting him for decades.

“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 says.

Burns is currently facing eight counts of aggravated sexual assault, six counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated burglary and one count aggravate robbery.