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The Night Stalker has confounded experts who maintain the...

LOS ANGELES -- The Night Stalker has confounded experts who maintain the curly-haired, gapped-tooth man suspected of 14 murders over a expanding area of California has departed from the way serial killers usually operate.

His victims share no physical characteristics and he has not stuck to a particular type of crime, which has complicated the investigation.

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Detectives, meanwhile, today issued a plea for public help in finding a stolen car spotted near the scene of the killer's latest attack.

'The car we're looking for resembles a car seen in the vicinity of the Mission Viejo incident,' said Sheriff's Deputy Steve Lee. The orange 1976 Toyota station wagon, California license 482-RTS, was reported stolen from downtown Saturday, hours before Bill Carns was shot in the head and his fiance raped in their Mission Viejo home.

The car seen in the neighborhood is the same color, make and matches a partial license plate given to investigators by a witness who reported seeing the car.

Authorities have been reticent to discuss the case, but one officer involved in investigating the 14 murders and 21 rapes, assaults and kidnappings told the Los Angeles Times the Night Stalker is unlike other serial killers.

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'It doesn't meet any profile we've ever seen on a serial murderer,' the unidentified officer told the newspaper. 'This guy's a rapist and a murderer who at one point was abducting small children and setting them free.'

In contrast, Northwestern University psychiatrist Richard Rappaport noted that Theodore Bundy, who has been implicated in the murders of 40 young women in the Northwest, preferred 'college-age girls with black hair parted down the middle'; convicted Atlanta murderer Wayne Williams was accused of targeting black children; and Chicago murderer John Wayne Gacy, convicted of 33 mutilation murders, preferred boys and young men.

Investigators have acknowledged the Night Stalker usually leaves a distinctive -- but not publicly disclosed -- trademark. He also has twice left a scrawled message -- the exact wording has not been revealed -- on walls of victims' homes.

In most instances, he has preyed on people who lived in single-story homes painted shades of yellow and close to a freeway.

A man clinging to life today following brain surgery Monday was the latest victim. Bill Carns, a 29-year-old businessman, was shot in the head and his fiancee raped in the attack at their suburban Mission Viejo home Sunday, police said.

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced late Monday that investigators were looking for an orange 1976 Toyota station wagon believed to have been used in the attack. The car's license plate is 482 RTS.

After killing a couple in San Francisco Aug. 17, investigaors assumed the killer would return to Southern California and the latest attack -- more than 450 miles south of San Francisco -- 'proves he's back,' said deputy Sam Jones.

Most of the victims lived in Los Angeles County's San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys. Witnesses have described the killer as in his 20s or 30s with curly hair and gapped, badly stained teeth.

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