A convicted serial killer and rapist is now awaiting another sentencing after evading police as a working truck driver for nearly 30 years.
Nearly 70-year-old Mark Douglas Burns was arrested in September of 2019, nearly two decades after he committed his last crime, and is set to be sentenced for first-degree murder charges and attempt to commit aggravated robbery on Friday, December 4th. The results of Friday’s sentencing will be added to the 242 year sentence Burns received earlier this year for multiple rapes in Utah. But, this year’s sentences are not the first time Burns has had a run-in with the law – back in 1974, he was sentenced to death via lethal gas chamber.
The 1974 death sentence was initially assigned for the rape of a woman in a McDonald’s restroom in North Carolina, but a judge soon vacated the death sentence, leaving Burns with a 25-30 years sentence with the possibility of parole after only six and a half years, which Burns was able to secure, leaving him free to commit more crimes in the years to come.
“I was only 23 when I was arrested. By the time I got my death sentence vacated and was given a 25-30 year sentence, I was eligible for parole in like 6.5 years,” Burns said. “When they called me out of my cell to take me down to vacate the sentence, I had no idea. I didn’t even know even what was going on… “
Now, after pleading guilty to sexual assault and the subsequent sentencing in April, Burns has confessed to homicides he committed in Oregon, Arizona, and Wyoming during the same time period as the sexual assaults, and says he doesn’t dispute the label of ‘serial killer.’ In fact, during his April rape sentencing, Burns specifically asked the judge to show him “no mercy,” and voiced discomfort over having to face any of his victims in person.
“If that’s what it is, then that’s what it is,” Burns responded. “It doesn’t bother me. I mean, it is what it is. If that’s what I am [ a serial killer], then that’s what I am.”
Burns’ crime spree took place between 1991 and 2001, leaving at least 11 rape victims and multiple dead. Burns has confessed to the murder of victims in three states, and has been charged with the 2001 murder of 28-year-old Sue Ellen Gunderson Higgins in Evanston, Wyoming.
Although Burns has admitted to the murders and rapes, he does claim the killings in Arizona and Oregon were male, exclusively in “self defense,” and says all three murders were “totally by accident. None of them were planned.”
“The one in Wyoming [Higgins]… is actually the only female victim I ever killed,” he said in an interview with Fox 13 Now in February 2020, which has only been released now following the conclusion of police investigations into Burns’ crimes.
“And that one was just a total mistake. My bad. She had nothing to do with — she did nothing wrong. Totally my bad. It was just a situation that just went to **** instantly, and I chose the wrong way to handle it.”
Despite his confessions, Burns refused to disclose just how many women he sexually assaulted over the years, and says he isn’t sure why he committed so many violent sexual crimes. However, he does admit that, up until recently, he never felt remorse for his horrific actions, and that these feelings of guilt and sorrow are new emotions for him; adding that he hopes his brain might one day be studied for abnormalities.
“I didn’t pick (my victims). Just whoever left the door unlocked,” said Burns, who almost exclusively chose victims living in apartments with sliding glass doors.
“I’ve got a pretty good idea. My memory’s not as good as it used to be, but I’m not going to get into [how many I assaulted] now,” Burns said. “Obviously there were probably some that were never even recorded. There may be some that [police] don’t know about. I will inform them of those cases as well and confess to them as well.”
“I had a compulsion that was irresistible…” he continued. “On the one hand it was a hunger that was unquenchable, unsatisfiable, but on the other hand it fed me. It made me feel complete.”
“I don’t know if it’s a chemical imbalance. Maybe I’ve got an extra Y chromosome,” he said. “Maybe it’s just a loose wire. I don’t know. My brain does not function like a normal human being. Up until recently I’ve never experienced a feeling of guilt. I do feel regret. I do feel remorse. I do feel sorrow. These are feelings I’ve never experienced before.”
As intense as his compulsions were, Burns says that one day in 2002, they just dissipated, so he stopped, and claims to not have committed a crime since.
“It just left. I no longer felt like committing crimes, so I didn’t,” he said.
After his crime-compulsion ceased, but prior to his arrest for the serial rape and murder cases, Burns worked as a truck driver in Ogden, Utah, where he hid from police in plain sight for nearly three decades. Despite accusations, he claims he never used his truck route to commit crimes.
Although Burns says that he never wished to be caught for his crimes, now that he has, he feels as if a burden has been lifted off of him.
“I was wondering if perhaps I would get caught some day because of DNA — the advancement of DNA,” he said, referencing the genetic genealogist that used a public database to find one of Burns’ relatives who had uploaded their DNA online.
“Now that that has happened, I figured I might as well go clear the books. Try to give as many people a sense of justice as possible… I’ve always wished that there was something I could have done. Well, I haven’t always. Since 2002, I’ve wished there was something I could have done for my victims. Other than confess.”
“[My arrest felt like] a great weight lifted off of me,” he continued.
“It gave me the opportunity to provide closure to my victims. They certainly deserve it. I’m a marine. I’ve always had a very high sense of honor, and the fact that I could do something like that to people is so unhonorable. I don’t know how I could have convinced myself that it was okay.”
“I have become what I think is a responsible citizen. I’m a good neighbor. I’m a good friend. I’m a good employee. I think I’m basically a decent human being if it wasn’t for the fact that I was also a monster.”
Now, after being identified as the long sought after cold case “Clearfield Rapist,” Burns has been sentenced to life in prison, with the potential for yet another life sentence, and even the possibility of death row.
“I’m almost 70 years old,” he said.
“I’m not going to live much longer anyway. You know, another 10-12 years. So even if I get a death sentence I’m gonna spend probably 8 or 9 years waiting to be executed…. I would rather be executed than spend the rest of my life in prison.”
“I never experienced love,” he continued. “Maybe these crimes were just some way of me actually being able to present my whole entire complete self as a human being to another person, whether they wanted it or not… I’m still not a normal human being. I am a sexual deviant. I am a predator. Maybe I’ll live long enough that that will go away too.”