Friend believes license is Fox's

It was minutes after 9 p.m. on Dec. 8, 1977, closing time at the Helzberg jewelry store in the Wichita Mall on East Harry.

Nancy Fox, a part-time office worker at the store, and her female co-worker walked together to their cars on the chilly night.

Hours later, the co-worker learned that she was one of the last people — possibly the last person other than the killer — to see Fox alive.

Between that night and the next morning, the serial killer BTK bound and strangled the 25-year-old Fox with nylon stockings in her duplex at 843 S. Pershing.

Twenty-seven years and six days later, on Tuesday night, the former co-worker saw Fox's face again — looking out from a Kansas driver's license wrapped in a clear plastic bag. An image of the package — found in a Wichita park this week — had been broadcast on television and posted online.

The former co-worker immediately recognized the face. It was just as she remembered Fox looking in 1977.

"That's the girl I walked out with," the woman told herself as she peered at the image.

"Oh, my."

The other pictures of Fox that have previously been shown in newspapers and on TV have been older photos of Fox, before her Helzberg days.

The former co-worker, who is not being identified because her family is concerned for her safety, said she also recognized the signature on the license. She had seen Fox sign documents at the jewelry store.

"I'm not a handwriting expert, but that was it. My gut feeling is it's for real," she said of the license.

A man told KAKE-TV that he found a package in Murdock Park late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. It contained what appeared to be Fox's driver's license, along with other items. Police said Tuesday that the package could be related to BTK and had been turned over to the FBI for authentication.

To the co-worker, it appeared that the bag holding the license also contained pantyhose.

She found it odd that the package had been found in the park. Before, BTK has sent letters or items directly to media or the police, or left them in places where he could be sure they'd be discovered.

"Usually, he's been more deliberate and methodical," she said. "I don't know what that means."

She said two KBI detectives interviewed her Wednesday about Fox's death.

Over the years, she said, detectives have asked her whether she could identify a watch that belonged to Fox. She assumed it meant the watch was missing from the crime scene. After BTK killed the Otero family in 1974, he wrote a letter saying he had taken Joseph Otero's watch.

The woman said she was sharing her information about the Fox killing in the hope that it could help solve the crime.

"Somebody out there knows this guy," she said. "The right piece of information is going to trigger a memory" and lead to an arrest.

The key to unraveling the mystery, she said, could be "some small, little detail that seems insignificant."

The day after she last saw Fox, she stepped into the jewelry store and found "half of Wichita's police department inside." Detectives asked question after question and went through paperwork Fox had handled, looking for clues, the woman said.

The woman was 21 then. Fox's death stunned and scared her. She wondered whether the killer watched the store.

She bought a gun for protection. For a while, she went home with a police escort. Before police left her, they made sure her telephone lines had not been cut.

Police found Fox's body after a man called from a pay phone at Central and St. Francis to report the crime. The call came at 8:20 a.m. on Dec. 9, 1977. A witness described a man seen on the phone as white, about 6 feet tall, with "blondish" hair, wearing a "blue-gray industrial-type uniform or outfit" and possibly a hat with earflaps. He reportedly drove a late-model, windowless van, possibly with printing on the side.

At the time, Detective Capt. Al Thimmesch was quoted as saying: "We're reasonably certain that the man who called to report the homicide was the same man who killed Fox. He knew too many things about her."

Thimmesch said it appeared Fox had been killed shortly after she arrived at her duplex, where she had lived for two years.

The killer smashed a back window, took the phone off its hook, cut phone lines and dumped out her purse. Police found her partially clothed on a bed.

During the day, Fox worked full-time as a secretary at a construction company. On nights and weekends, she worked part-time at the jewelry store. Her co-worker assumed that Fox needed the second job to pay bills.

She remembers Fox as being witty, friendly. "I liked her a lot."

When customers' children came into the store, Fox had a special way of relating to them.

"She would have been a wonderful mother someday — never had that chance."