Slain CEO's parents implore Maryland lawmakers to end good behavior credits for rapists

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The parents of slain Baltimore tech CEO Pava Marie LaPere shared their profound grief Tuesday while urging Maryland lawmakers to end good behavior credits for convicted rapists like the man charged with killing her.

Frank LaPere said no family should have to suffer the way theirs has since the September strangulation death of his 26-year-old daughter, who launched tech startup EcoMap Technologies several years earlier from her Johns Hopkins University dorm room.

“We know this because we have lived it, and we never want any other family to have to identify their daughter’s body, almost unrecognizable, again,” he said, adding that the pain and grief “is too much for a person to handle.”

The high-profile killing in Baltimore brought attention the accused’s criminal record and early release.

Jason Billingsley, who is charged with first-degree murder in LaPere’s death, was released from prison in October 2022 after serving a shortened sentence for a 2013 rape because he earned good behavior credits behind bars. Billingsley also was charged with two dozen counts in a Sept. 19 rape in which a woman and man were bound with duct tape before being set on fire, and police had been actively searching for him.

A measure before lawmakers this year would prohibit a person imprisoned for first-degree rape from receiving early release credits automatically for good behavior.

Caroline LaPere said it was difficult to testify but that she considered it an important mission to serve the legacy of her daughter and to support actions to prevent violence.

“Pass the bill,” she said. “It’s simple. Further, I want to say that there are so many victims who can’t or won’t have the chance to address you.”

Del. Elizabeth Embry, a Baltimore Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, said it would require the state’s parole commission to sign off before someone serving a first-degree rape sentence could win early release.

State law already requires someone convicted of serious sex offenses when the victim is under 16 to go before the state’s parole commission for consideration of early release.

“For any age, the person should have to go through the parole commission process in order earn and secure early release,” Embry told the House Judiciary Committee.

The slaying brought attention to the availability of credits for good behavior, known as “diminution credits” to reduce a prison sentence. Such credits are made for good conduct, work tasks, education, and special projects or programs.

Gov. Wes Moore, who knew LaPere, has said he supports changing the law. Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said Tuesday he believes there will be support to change the law this year.

“I think, particularly for first-degree rape situations, there is very good reason to have extra eyes on the diminution credits and make sure that something like what happened this past year can’t happen again,” Ferguson said.

LaPere, who was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for social impact last year, died from strangulation and blunt force trauma, court records show. She was remembered as someone who remained focused on building community and using entrepreneurship to create meaningful social change, even as her national profile rose.