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The suspect in Pava LaPere's killing was already under police surveillance in connection to another violent crime prior to tech CEO's death

Natalie Musumeci   

The suspect in Pava LaPere's killing was already under police surveillance in connection to another violent crime prior to tech CEO's death
  • Police said they were tracking the man accused of killing a Baltimore tech CEO days before her death.
  • Jason Billingsley was arrested Wednesday in connection to the killing of 26-year-old Pava LaPere.

The man accused of killing a Baltimore, Maryland, tech CEO was already being tracked by police in the days before the young entrepreneur's death in connection to another violent crime, but he managed to evade capture, authorities revealed on Thursday.

Jason Billingsley, 32, a convicted sex offender with a violent criminal history, was arrested by law enforcement late Wednesday in the Maryland city of Bowie. Police said he was the sole suspect in the killing of 26-year-old Pava LaPere and a separate September 19 attempted murder, arson, and rape case.

In the LaPere case, Billingsley was charged with first-degree murder, assault, and reckless endangerment, court records show. And in the September 19 case, he was charged with attempted murder, rape, arson, burglary, and several other charges, according to the records. It was not immediately clear on Thursday whether Billingsley had retained an attorney.

LaPere, the founder and CEO of the startup EcoMap Technologies who recently made it on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, was found dead on Monday with signs of blunt-force trauma at the Baltimore apartment building where she lived, and police now say investigators believe she was likely killed on Friday night.

Baltimore Police Department acting commissioner Richard Worley said on Thursday during a press conference that authorities had quickly identified Billingsley as the suspect in the September 19 incident — which happened several miles away from where LaPere was killed — and were surveilling him since September 20.

But it still took several days for police to arrest Billingsley, even after a plea from his mother to turn himself in.

Police even listened to old phone calls Billingsley made in jail to try to find him

In the days before LaPere was killed, police were tracking Billingsley's phone, looking at his financial transactions and social media, surveilling his known addresses, and even listening to old calls from his time in jail, Worley said.

"There were several instances in which we were able to track a close proximity of his location, however, he was still able to elude," Worley said.

The police official added that the initial press conference this week about LaPere's death was delayed because authorities "were within about 88 meters of capturing the suspect, but he was able to elude our capture."

"We knew early on that the risk was when we went public, that the suspect would go underground, which is exactly what he did," Worley said.

Billingsley "basically left the location he was at" as soon as the press conference in which police announced a warrant for his arrest in the killing of LaPere happened, Worley said.

Worley said police didn't initially go public in naming Billingsley as a suspect in the September 19 attempted murder, arson, and rape case, in part, because "it was not a random act" and said the suspect was "familiar" with the victims in that case.

"At that time, we did not believe that he was committing random acts," Worley said of the suspect. "We think he committed a targeted act on the victims that he victimized that day."

Police don't think LaPere and Billingsley knew each other

In the case of LaPere, police have said that investigators don't believe Billingsley and LaPere knew each other and haven't yet released a possible motive.

Worley said he wouldn't "speculate" on whether LaPere's death could have been prevented, and insisted that authorities didn't make any mistakes.

"If we made a mistake, I'd tell you we made a mistake," Worley said. "I don't think we made a mistake in this case."

Worley said that as soon as police realized the suspect "had committed an act that seemed to be random — that we still don't know connections there yet," authorities put out a wanted poster identifying him.

"We put the flier out and, just as we thought, as soon as he saw the flier, he tried to elude capture and turned off all devices we were able to track him on," Worley said.

Authorities said Billingsley was taken into custody late Wednesday without incident.

LaPere's family 'relieved' by the suspect's arrest

LaPere's family said in a statement on Thursday that they were "relieved to know" that the suspect accused in LaPere's killing "can no longer hurt other innocent victims."

"While this doesn't change that Baltimore lost one of its most passionate, influential fans, our efforts remain focused on remembering and celebrating Pava Marie – her life, successes, and legacy," the family added.

The family also thanked law enforcement for their "tireless efforts" throughout the investigation and the arrest of the suspect.

Meanwhile, a friend of LaPere's told Insider that the young woman's "unexplainable" killing has left those who knew LaPere in a state of shock.

"It's the shock of feeling that she didn't do anything to deserve this," Karina Mandell said. "She was doing literally the opposite, she was helping the world, she threw her life into helping the city from sunrise to sunset."

Mandell, an employee with Baltimore's economic development agency who met LaPere in 2018 at a Maryland networking event organized by LaPere, said that her friend was striving to make the world a better place.

"She was passionate and intense and driven," Mandell said. "We lost such a light in our community."

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