Baltimore police are scrambling to find an “extremely dangerous” man suspected of murdering 26-year-old tech CEO Pava LaPere, who was found dead in an apartment building on Monday.
The suspect, 32-year-old Jason Dean Billingsley, should be considered armed and dangerous as he is wanted on charges of first-degree murder, assault and other offenses, acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said Tuesday.
LaPere, co-founder of the small startup EcoMap Technologies, was reported missing Monday morning, police said. Hours later, police were called to a downtown apartment building, where LaPere was discovered with signs of blunt-force trauma to her head, Worley said.
The young tech executive, who had been featured in this year’s Forbes 30 under 30 list for social impact, is being mourned as an innovative leader who was devoted to supporting those around her.
The building where she was found had security measures that would have required someone to “allow the (suspect) in the building,” Worley said.
Investigators believe Billingsley is still in the Baltimore area and urge anyone who has information on him or his whereabouts to call 911 immediately, Worley said Tuesday.
“This individual will kill, and he will rape,” Worley cautioned, citing the suspect’s criminal record. “He will do anything he can to cause harm.”
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said he considers Billingsley “extremely dangerous.”
Billingsley pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in 2009 and second-degree assault in 2011, according to court records. He also pleaded guilty to a first-degree sex offense in 2015 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison with 16 months already served, the records show.
Billingsley was released from prison in October 2022. A spokesperson for Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said Billingsley had not been paroled but was released “on mandatory supervision as required by statute,” The New York Times reported.
Since his release from prison, Billingsley has been registered as a sex offender in Maryland’s database.
Baltimore’s police commissioner said Billingsley is a suspect in at least one other case, but did not elaborate.
LaPere’s sudden death stunned loved ones and members of the local tech community who say the EcoMap co-founder was a beloved leader whose relentless dedication to her work catapulted the startup’s growing success.
“Pava’s visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to fostering inclusivity, amplifying ecosystems, and fortifying Baltimore’s tech community set her apart as an exceptional leader, and her boundless passion for EcoMap’s mission was foundational to our success,” EcoMap said in a Facebook post.
LaPere founded EcoMap alongside COO Sherrod Davis while she was a 21-year-old college student at Johns Hopkins University, according to EcoMap’s website. With just over 30 employees, the startup is part of the artificial intelligence wave. It sells AI tools, including a customizable chatbot, that aim to make clients’ information easier to access and customer communications more seamless, the company says.
In August, the company said it had reached nearly $8 million in financing.
In addition to being a driving force behind EcoMap, LaPere strove to uplift others in Baltimore, the mayor said.
“Pava was a very young, talented, devoted Baltimorean – someone that I had the opportunity to get to know over the past few years – who would help anybody that she would see,” Scott recalled.
When EcoMap announced it had closed a $3.5 million funding round in June, LaPere said she and the company were “particularly proud of the number of investors from our hometown of Baltimore.”
We are passionately committed to making an impact on the city, and we are proud to be part of its growing tech ecosystem,” LaPere said in a news release at the time.
LaPere’s mentor and CEO of Baltimore-based company Fearless, Delali Dzirasa, told CNN LaPere was highly regarded in her community.
“There is no person on planet Earth that could tell Pava that she couldn’t do something,” Dzirasa said. “Even though she was a force, she always made space for other people,” he added.
A vigil will be held for LaPere on Wednesday evening to “celebrate Pava’s extraordinary life and the profound impact she had on our community,” EcoMap said in a social media post.