Slain tech CEO Pava LaPere’s friend mourns ‘force to be reckoned with’

A close friend of Pava LaPere has remembered the late Baltimore tech CEO as a pioneering entrepreneur who “had a knack” for helping others.

Jason Dean Billingsley, 32, has been charged in connection with the murder of LaPere, the founder and CEO of EcoMaps Technologies. The 26-year-old victim’s body was found with evident signs of blunt force trauma on the roof of her apartment building on Monday, The Baltimore Banner reports.

As Baltimore police and the US Marshal’s Service hunt for Billingsley, who is considered “armed and dangerous,” an entire community continues to grapple with LaPere’s death.

Karina Mandell, a friend and colleague of LaPere, told The Independent on Wednesday that the tragic loss will have ripple effects in the city that LaPere breathed and loved and worked every day to improve.

“She was a force to be reckoned with. She wanted things to be better, it wasn’t just complaining, she wanted to improve things and challenge the status quo and was unapologetic about it because it was for the right reasons,” Ms Mandell, an entrepreneur herself, said about her friend.

LaPere, who is originally from Arizona, stayed in Baltimore after graduating from Johns Hopkins University in 2019 with a degree in arts and sociology. She launched her startup, a custom platform builder for companies, from her dorm and went on to build it from the ground up.

Earlier this year, LaPere was featured on Forbes’ “30 under 30” list for her social impact on the industry. EcoMaps Technologies, which currently has a team of nearly 30 employees, has raised $5m and boasts big-name clients including Meta and the T.Rowe Price Foundation.

Pava LaPere was found murdered on Monday on the roof of her Baltimore building (Facebook/Pava LaPere)
Pava LaPere was found murdered on Monday on the roof of her Baltimore building (Facebook/Pava LaPere)

“She had this knack for finding what was messing with us and wanting opportunities for everyone,” Ms Mandell added. “No matter where you came from, no matter what college you went to, to make sure that you knew the opportunities that were available to you and to democratise that access for everybody.”

At a press conference on Tuesday, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said that he had met LaPere through her work.

The mayor described her as a true Baltimorian who used her talent to help others. Ms Mandell echoed those feelings, describing LaPere as the “Silicon Valley type-of-person” who would get up at 5.30am every morning to think about ways to help improve her city.

“Her apartment was literally above her office,” Ms Mandell told The Independent. “She wanted to help other students, other entrepreneurs, to keep funding, to prototype ideas because, you know, who knows who will build the next pacemaker, the next rocket or the next Uber.”

She added: “She was doing good things for a lot of good people and hiring within the city and growing her team. We need to move that commitment to honour her legacy.”

A vigil will be held for LaPere at Baltimore’s Washington Monument at 6.30pm on Wednesday.

“I expect nothing but a beautiful vigil tonight and I hope that they catch this guy as soon as possible because her family and the community are looking for answers and don’t know how this could have possibly happened,” Ms Mandell said.

Jason Dean Billingsley has previously been convicted for assault and sex offence charges (Baltimore Police Department)
Jason Dean Billingsley has previously been convicted for assault and sex offence charges (Baltimore Police Department)

Baltimore police said that a missing persons call was placed for LaPere just hours before her body was found.

Her remains were discovered by officers at around 11.34am on Monday. It was initially reported that she was found inside her apartment, but a law enforcement source with knowledge of the case has since told The Baltimore Banner that the body was actually found on the roof of her apartment building on the 300 block of West Franklin Street.

LaPere was partially clothed and had signs of blunt-force trauma. Commissioner Worley said that the building “was secure” and someone had to allow the killer in for him to gain access.

Baltimore police confirmed on Wednesday that Billingsley has also been linked to an attempted murder, arson and rape on 19 September in the 800 block of Edmondson Avenue — just a 15-minute walk from LaPere’s building.

A $6,000 reward is being offered for information regarding Billingsley’s whereabouts.

“Additionally, detectives are now reviewing all cases since [his release in] October 2022, to the present day in order to determine any other connections,” the department told The Independent in a statement.

Billingsley is a convicted sex offender who was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with 16 years suspended, after he pleaded guilty to a first-degree sex offence, according to court records. However, the Maryland sex offender registry shows that he was released from prison last October.