Authorities Search for Armed Suspect in Murder of ‘30 Under 30’ Tech CEO

The Daily Beast/Medium
The Daily Beast/Medium

A 26-year-old tech CEO who made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list this year was found dead in her Baltimore apartment on Monday. The next day, police announced an arrest warrant for a 32-year-old suspect in her murder.

Pava LaPere was the founder of EcoMap Technologies, which since 2018 has created “platforms that enable people to navigate any ecosystem, from small business communities to entire industries,” according to her LinkedIn profile.

Authorities are searching for 32-year-old Jason Dean Billingsley, whose criminal record includes arrests and charges in 2009, 2011, and 2013 related to sex offenses, 2nd degree assault charges and robbery. Maryland's sex offender registry shows that Billingsley was convicted of a first-degree sex offense in 2015 and released in October 2022.

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At a press conference, Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley described Billingsley as “armed and dangerous” and said, “We implore residents to be aware of your surroundings at all times. This individual will kill, and he will rape, he will do anything he can to cause harm.”

Worley also shared a message for Billingsley.

“If you’re out there watching … every single police officer in Baltimore City, the state of Maryland, as well as the U.S. Marshals are looking for you,” Worley said. “We will find you.”

It’s unclear whether LaPere knew Billingsley, who is wanted on charges including first-degree murder, assault, and reckless endangerment.

Police say they found the well-liked entrepreneur, whose body showed signs of blunt-force trauma, after she was reported missing. Cops responded to a call for service around 11:34 a.m. at the Johns Hopkins University grad’s apartment at a historic building once known as the Congress Hotel.

State’s attorney Ivan Bates said Billingsley received a 30-year sentence in 2011 for charges including attempted rape but was paroled in October of 2022.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott told the press that LaPere’s death was “senseless, horrific and deeply tragic.”

“Pava was a very young, talented, devoted Baltimorean, someone who I had gotten the opportunity to know over the past few years who would help anybody she would see,” he said. “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 stomach of all Baltimoreans tonight and our city.”

Tributes to LaPere began pouring in as the news of her death spread.

“It is with profound sadness and shock that EcoMap announces the tragic and untimely passing of our beloved founder and CEO,” the company said in a statement. “The circumstances surrounding Pava’s death are deeply distressing, and our deepest condolences are with her family, friends, and loved ones during this incredibly devastating time.

“Pava was not only the visionary force behind EcoMap but was also a deeply compassionate and dedicated leader,” the firm continued, adding that LaPere was committed to “building a deeply inclusive culture as a leader.”

EcoMap’s website touts 30-plus employees, of which 50 percent are women and 50 percent are persons of color. “It helps when you’re Female & Black-founded,” the site states.

“I’m proud that I’ve been able to build a company that both makes money and does good in the world,” LaPere told the Baltimore Business Journal, which profiled her spot on the Inno Under 25 list in 2021. “Increasing access to information is so important to me, and sometimes I can’t believe we get paid to do this at scale.

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“It is really easy to make money if you don’t care about whether or not you’re doing something meaningful, but I think that going forward, the most successful corporations are going to be the ones who make the world better with their products without sacrificing profitability.”

In August, EcoMap announced it raised a total of $8 million across three investment rounds.

Clients include Meta, the Aspen Institute, the WXR Fund, and T. Rowe Price Foundation, according to Forbes’ 2023 profile of LaPere that spotlighted her place on its “30 Under 30 - Social Impact” list. Last year, LaPere told the Business Journal that the Meta partnership related to immersive technologies like virtual reality.

Before EcoMap, LaPere helped launch a startup accelerator at Johns Hopkins and a student-led incubator, TCO Labs.

“I'm literally heartbroken,” Mac Conwell, managing partner at the pre-seed fund RareBreed Ventures, wrote on Twitter. “I’ve know [sic] Pava since she was a college student with dreams of being an entrepreneur. I was there when she started her company and helped her with funding and clients, and today she’s gone because of a horrific act.”

LaPere frequently tweeted about Baltimore, her company’s rapid growth, and her thoughts of the tech and venture capital scenes in general.

“Work is vastly more fast-paced & high-stakes now than it was a year ago, but it’s infinitely more enjoyable because I’m now deeply engaged in community both within & outside of our company,” LaPere posted in June. “I think we *really* underestimate the power of being embedded in real-life communities.”

In May, the beloved entrepreneur gave a shout-out to her EcoMap employees. “It’s not until you witness the awful slowdown in work & emotional trauma caused by a dysfunctional team do you truly appreciate the magic of one that works well together,” she wrote.

“Grateful now more than ever for the @EcoMapTech team - y’all really are an absolute gem.”

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