Friends of David Childs reacted with shock Friday at the news the former Nordstrom shoe salesman was the homicide victim found Tuesday morning in downtown Yakima.

“Oh, no. He’s the nicest guy. Just the nicest guy in the world. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. I don’t know what to say,” said John Baule, director of the Yakima Valley Museum, which recently ended a two-year exhibition of women’s high-heel shoes that Childs had collected over his career.

“I feel really badly,” said Baule, who learned of Childs’ fate from a reporter. “Of all the people ...”

Authorities identified Childs, 70, following an autopsy Thursday, two days after his beaten and stabbed body was found in a parking lot in the historic Front Street district, just feet from the sidewalk.

No wallet or other ID was found on the body. Instead, the identification was made based on a dental plate that was removed as part of the autopsy. Such plates, similar to dentures, frequently have names or serial numbers on them from the manufacturer.

Further proof came when detectives began examining a set of keys that were found in the man’s pants pocket during the autopsy. Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins said detectives found Childs’ car parked close to where his body was found.

Baule said Childs grew up in Iowa but had lived most of his adult life in Yakima, where he was a longtime employee of the downtown Nordstrom store that closed in 2001.

Childs, who lived alone, had a passion for women’s shoes, particularly high heels, from an early age and began collecting them in high school, friends said.

The collection became an exhibition at the museum in 2011 and was so popular that it was extended an extra year, said David Lynx, who curated the collection as associate director of the museum and is now director of the Larson Gallery in Yakima.

“It brought in a lot of people who had never been to the museum,” said Lynx, who described Childs as “just a nice guy and fun to talk to. He had a really good sense of humor. ... He will be missed.”

Childs was a member of both the Yakima Symphony Chorus and the choir at Central Lutheran Church, where he was a longtime member of the congregation.

Central Lutheran Pastor Mike Scheid, who sat next to Childs in the tenor section, said he learned of Childs’ death from the police department Thursday night after Childs missed choir practice, leading one of the choir members to ask police to do a welfare check.

“David was very easy-going, very easy to get along with,” said Scheid, adding, “It was quite a shock that something like this would happen.”

Another friend, clothier Gretchen Gilday, was overcome with emotion upon hearing the news. “I’m surprised it took them so long” to identify him, she said. “Everybody knows him.”

Capt. Rod Light, a spokesman for the Yakima Police Department, acknowledged that finding the keys in Childs’ pocket sooner might have led to a quicker discovery of his car — and therefore his identity.

Light said the need to preserve the integrity of evidence and the crime scene precluded detectives from searching the victim’s pockets. Detectives were also hampered by a two-day delay in the autopsy due to a scheduling conflict.

Now that detectives know who the victim was, Light said, they are attempting to retrace his steps Monday night.

So far, time of death has not been firmly established. Police believe Childs had been dead hours before his body was discovered by a shopkeeper about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. A witness has since reported there was a disturbance in the parking lot around 11 p.m. Monday.

Although there are several restaurants in the district, it is believed they were closed by that time. There are several apartments in the area, both in the former Greystone building adjacent to where Childs’ body was found and the low-income Cascade and Senator apartments on the opposite side of the block.

• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or Follow him on Twitter at