Farmington • Mark Douglas Burns says it’s been nearly 20 years since he committed a crime.
It was then, in 2002, that he began to see a change in himself. That he started to feel emotions he had never felt before: Guilt. Remorse. Shame.
But before that, he had been a self-described “monster.” He had broken into homes and raped women. He may have even killed one.
Authorities say that two decades ago Burns sexually assaulted at least eight women in Davis County alone. DNA evidence has linked him to other assaults in Wyoming, and he’s the suspect in a cold-case murder in Evanston.
Just before he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison Monday, Burns was apologetic. He got emotional as he expressed remorse while sitting in a cramped jail cell, speaking through a video feed.
“When I look back at the things that I had done, it makes me sick to my stomach,” he said. “The reason I say this is, I want my victims to know that when I tell them, I’m sorry, I mean it. I realize that saying I’m sorry doesn’t fix what I did. Pleading guilty and going to prison doesn’t fix what I did. But it’s all I can do for them.”
But at least for one of Burns’ victims, the apology rang hollow.
If he had truly been remorseful, she said during his sentencing hearing Monday, he would have turned himself in years ago.
Instead, he kept his crimes a secret until DNA technology caught up to him. A genetic genealogist used a public database to find a relative of Burns who had uploaded their DNA online, which eventually led police to this serial rapist.
The woman said she lived in fear for 19 years, worrying that the man sitting in traffic next to her might be the one who broke into her apartment on July 29, 2000, and brutally sexually assaulted her multiple times over a two-hour period.
She urged the judge to make sure Burns would never be free again.
“Let him be in prison for the rest of his life,” she said. “He has had his freedom for the past two decades. Let’s end his freedom here and now.”
Second District Judge John Morris did just that, ordering Burns, 69, to serve back-to-back sentences for the 17 first-degree felonies he pleaded guilty to. That equated to a minimum of 242 years behind bars, effectively a life sentence.
Burns had pleaded guilty in February to eight charges of aggravated sexual assault, six counts of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated robbery.
Those charges were filed in connection to sexual assaults of three women in Davis County between 2000 and 2001. But Deputy Davis County Attorney Ben Willoughby told the judge Monday that there were other cases where charges couldn’t be brought because the legal deadlines had passed.
One of those cases was a woman who was just 11 years old when Burns took her from her family’s Riverdale apartment and raped her in his car. Willoughby read a letter from the victim recounting the assault, as the woman sat in the courtroom gallery.
“There was so much pain,” the letter read. “I didn’t think my small body could handle it.”
The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
One of his victims, the one who asked that Burns be sentenced to life in prison, recounted a brutal rape in the courtroom, saying it left her with decades worth of trauma and difficulty with trusting people.
“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die,” she said. “Yet, during those past two decades, Mark Douglas Burns was able to live his own life freely like nothing ever happened. He gave me a life sentence, but he himself was free to live his life without any repercussions.”
For that break-in, Burns pleaded guilty to five felonies.
The remaining charges involved a night in May 2001, when Burns broke into a Clearfield home and victimized a family. Court documents say a woman heard her bedroom door open and thought it was her 20-year-old son coming home from work. Instead it was a man with a nylon stocking over his head.
The suspect pointed a flashlight and a gun at the woman, waking her husband in the process. He then asked who else was in the home. Soon, Burns had four members of the family bound in the bedroom. When the son did come home, he was bound, too.
The intruder raped the woman and sexually assaulted her 19-year-old daughter.
Willoughby said that family was planning to attend Monday’s sentencing, but could not travel to Utah because of the coronavirus pandemic.