Disturbing new details in brazen murder of Tucson tech entrepreneur in Baltimore

Twenty-six-year-old Pava LaPere’s loved ones held a vigil in Baltimore this week after her murder by a man authorities believe she never even knew.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 8:18 PM MST
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BALTIMORE, MD (3TV/CBS 5) - We’re getting new details in the brazen murder of Tucson native Pava LaPere, a young tech entrepreneur living in Baltimore.

As her family and friends grieve this senseless loss, there’s new scrutiny and criticism around the investigation. The man charged with her murder had a violent history, and at the time of her murder, police were already searching for him in connection to an earlier attempted murder and rape.

The biggest issue here is the suspected murderer, Jason Billingsley, was let out of prison very early for good behavior after raping somebody in 2015.

It didn’t take long for him to seemingly fall back into terrorizing ways, and it appears Pava LaPere was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, as Billingsley evaded police already on his trail. A Tucson father and family made the most heartbreaking trip across the country this week. “I want to thank you all for being here and for loving our daughter and taking care of her,” said LaPere’s father, Frank, at a vigil.

Twenty-six-year-old Pava LaPere’s loved ones held a vigil in Baltimore this week after her murder by a man authorities believe she never even knew. LaPere graduated from Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson before attending Johns Hopkins, then going on to become a wildly successful tech entrepreneur, the CEO of EcoMap technologies, giving TED talks, and was recently named to Forbes 30 under 30 for social impact.

According to court documents, surveillance cameras at LaPere’s apartment show suspect Jason Billingsley waving at her through the glass doors as if needing to be let in.

LaPere lets him in, and they both go to the elevator; then, the documents said about 40 minutes later, Billingsley is seen scrambling to exit the hotel. LaPere’s body was found on the building’s roof, dead from strangulation and blunt force trauma.

Police were already trying to track him down for rape, arson, and attempted murder just days prior, with victims they thought Billingsley knew. “If I would have known he was going to kill someone, we would’ve put the flyer out, but we had no indication he was committing random acts,” said Richard Worley, the Baltimore Acting Police Commissioner, at a press conference this week.

Baltimore Police have received criticisms for not alerting the public about Billingsley, partly due to his criminal past. He pleaded guilty to assaults in 2009 and 2011, then was convicted of raping a victim in 2015.

Former FBI supervisory special agent Lance Leising said oftentimes agencies won’t put out information when they’re tracking a suspect down, so they don’t scare them off, but he said there are implications in this case. “I have been on that end several times where I’m arguing, ‘Give us a day. We’re very close, we believe it was targeted, we don’t think he’s after everyone else.’ But the flip side is look at his history. He has assaulted multiple people during his short time here on this earth,” said Leising.

Leising said a random attack like this is very rare, and puts blame elsewhere than on police. “The fact that he only did half of a sentence after multiple violent assaults? That’s a breakdown somewhere,” said Leising. “The predator should have never been out of jail.”

Billingsley is now facing 30 different counts, including first-degree murder for LaPere. But Leising said based on his M-O, there’s no way one week of crimes are his only victims. “They’re going to be trying to find unsolved cases and see if it was him because while he was arrested and convicted on a handful of crimes, there’s probably many, many more out there that he was never caught for” said Leising.

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