UPDATE: Baltimore police have announced the arrest of Jason Dean Billingsley, 32, who is accused of murdering 26-year-old start-up founder Pava LaPere on Monday. Billingsley was located and surrounded by a SWAT team and taken into custody “without incident.”
In a Thursday press conference, Baltimore acting police commissioner Richard Worley revealed that Billingsley had been on law enforcement’s radar for about a week before he allegedly killed LaPere. On Sept. 19, police believe Billingsley was involved in an “arson and rape” incident at a home on Edmondson Avenue.
The Baltimore Banner reports that Billingsley is accused of raping a woman and cutting her neck before dousing both her and a man with liquid and setting them on fire. The woman and man survived and were hospitalized, along with a child who was also in the house.
This incident was not a random act of violence, Worley told reporters on Thursday, adding that police have reason to believe that the victims at the Edmondson address were targeted and known to the suspect.
A warrant was issued for Billingsley’s arrest on Sept. 20 and police and U.S. Marshals were actively looking for him when LaPere was killed.
“There were several instances in which we were able to track him close to his location. However, he was still able to elude,” Worley said.
Police are still trying to determine if Billingsley and LaPere knew each other.
When asked why the public wasn’t alerted about Billingsley after the Sept. 19 rape and arson incident, Worley said that police had no indication he would try to commit random acts of violence and they didn’t want the suspect to go underground before police could locate him.
“If I would have known that he was going to go and kill someone, we would have put the flyer up,” he said.
State attorney Ivan Bates characterized Billingsley as a “repeat violent offender” and said that state prosecutors are planning to request he is sentenced to life without parole.
“Our hope and goal is if this individual is found guilty in a court of law, that this individual will never get out to see the light of day again,” Bates said.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott expressed his sympathies to LaPere’s family and said she “was truly a light in our city and in this world.”
“It’s heartbreaking that she is no longer here with us, especially at the hands of someone who, as I said the other day, should not have been on the streets in the first place.“
ORIGINAL: The 26-year-old founder of a Baltimore tech startup was found dead inside her apartment complex shortly after she was reported missing Monday morning, police said.
Pava LaPere’s body showed signs of blunt-force trauma, Baltimore police disclosed in a press release.
Earlier this year, LaPere was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for social impact. Her company EcoMap uses AI to curate and assemble data into a digital “ecosystem” so that organizations can easily access their resources. Their clients include Meta, the Aspen Institute and the T. Rowe Price Foundation, according to Forbes.
On Tuesday evening, Baltimore police announced they had a suspect in LaPere’s death: Jason Dean Billingsley.
Billingsley, 32, is wanted for first-degree murder and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, police said. U.S. Marshals are actively looking for him.
Billingsley has a number of prior arrests from 2013, 2011 and 2009 for charges including sexual assault, second-degree assault and robbery. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to first-degree sex assault and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with 16 years suspended.
He would only end up serving about seven years in prison, however, according to the Maryland sex offender registry, which shows he was released on Oct. 5, 2022 on parole.
The registry lists Billingsley as a “tier 3” sex offender, reserved for the most serious offenders who must remain on the registry for the rest of their lives.
Baltimore acting police commissioner Richard Worley asked anyone with information about Billingsley’s whereabouts to contact authorities. He said Billingsley should be considered armed and dangerous.
“This individual will kill and he will rape. He will do anything he can to cause harm,” Worley said.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said Billingsley should never have been freed from prison in a Tuesday press conference.
“There is no way in hell that he should have been out on the street,” Scott said. “We are tired of talking about the same people committing the same kind of crimes over and over again.”
Scott said he had gotten to know LaPere in recent years and called the tech founder “young, talented” and “devoted” to her city. He urged the public and media to give her family privacy as they grieve.
“To have that life cut short by someone who has no care about anything other than harming people is something that should sit deep in the stomachs of all Baltimoreans tonight,” he said. “We will not rest until justice is served.”
Police did not provide details about a possible motive in LaPere’s death, and investigators are working to determine if Billingsley knew the victim.
In a statement Tuesday, colleagues described LaPere as “a deeply compassionate and dedicated leader.”
“Her untiring commitment to our company, to Baltimore, to amplifying the critical work of ecosystems across the country, and to building a deeply inclusive culture as a leader, friend and partner set a standard for leadership,” EcoMap staff wrote.
LaPere founded EcoMap as a 21-year-old college student at Johns Hopkins University.
Her alma mater released a statement Tuesday expressing condolences for the alum, who “made Baltimore home and invested her talent in our city.”
“Pava was well known and loved in the Baltimore entrepreneurship community and will be profoundly missed,” Johns Hopkins University said.
LaPere also founded a non-profit that helped support student entrepreneurs across Maryland, according to her LinkedIn page.
On her LinkedIn profile, she described herself as a tech CEO “who believes in hyperlocal, ecosystem-based economic development to create a more equitable future for all communities.” She posted on Instagram about founding the startup from her college dorm room and watching it grow into a robust, successful venture.
“To be honest, running this company has been harder than I ever imagined,” she said in a video posted to social media in April by the non-profit Baltimore Homecoming. “But it makes me feel so excited every single time we launch a new platform because we get to see the thousands of people who are using it to find the information that they need in their community.”
At Tuesday’s press conference, Worley, the police commissioner, made a plea to Billingsley to turn himself in.
“If you’re out there watching … every single police officer in Baltimore city, in the state of Maryland, as well as U.S. marshals, are looking for you,” he said.
“We will find you … and then we will turn it over to the state’s attorney to prosecute you to the fullest. So please turn yourself in.”
— With files from The Associated Press