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Suspect arrested in murder of Baltimore tech CEO Pava LaPere

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The manhunt for a convict accused of murdering a Baltimore tech CEO has ended, authorities said, even as the suspect’s release on a prior conviction comes under further scrutiny.

Jason Dean Billingsley, 32, of Baltimore, was arrested in Maryland without incident around 11 p.m. ET Wednesday, authorities said.

Billingsley was wanted for first-degree murder, assault, reckless endangerment and other charges in connection with the death of Pava LaPere, 26, the founder of EcoMap Technologies.

Police found LaPere dead with “blunt-force trauma wounds” at a Baltimore apartment building on Monday, within hours of being reported missing, according to Baltimore Commissioner Richard Worley. It is unclear if there was any previous connection between Billingsley and LaPere, he said.

“I know this arrest does not bring back Pava LaPere,” Worley told reporters during a press briefing Thursday. “But my hope is at least we can give a sense of closure to the city of Baltimore, the victims of all his crimes and all their families.”

PHOTO: Frank LaPere, Nico LaPere and Caroline Frank, the family of Pava LaPere, founder of tech startup EcoMap Technologies, speak during a vigil on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Baltimore.

Frank LaPere, Nico LaPere and Caroline Frank, the family of Pava LaPere, founder of tech startup EcoMap Technologies, speak during a vigil on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Baltimore.

Stephanie Scarbrough/AP

LaPere was discovered on the roof of the apartment building where she lived and worked with trauma to her head, face and body, according to a charging document which redacted her name. A brick and several teeth were among the items found at the crime scene, it stated. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide by strangulation and blunt force trauma, according to the document.

She is believed to have been killed on Friday, Worley said. Surveillance video showed LaPere let the suspect into the apartment building and then go with him to the elevator, according to the charging document.

Billingsley was also being sought in connection with an attempted murder, arson and rape that occurred on Sept. 19 in the 800 block of Edmondson Avenue, police said.

In that case, police responding to the report of a fire found a man and woman suffering from multiple injuries. They were transported to area hospitals in critical condition, police said at the time. A 5-year-old was also found on the upper level of the home unharmed, police said.

According to a charging document, the female victim heard a loud banging on her door by a person who identified himself as maintenance. The suspect kicked in the door and pointed a gun at her, then duct-taped her and the male victim, according to the document. He then allegedly raped the woman, slashed her neck with a knife and then set her and the male victim on fire in the basement, according to the document.

Billingsley worked at the building and knew the victims, who were targeted, according to Worley.

“All the indications are that this was not a random act of violence,” Worley said, explaining why police didn’t immediately alert the public on the suspect.

Billingsley faces a litany of charges in that case, including attempted first-degree murder and rape. A warrant was issued for his arrest in that case “within hours” and authorities were actively surveilling and tracking Billingsley to apprehend him when they announced on Tuesday that he was also a suspect in LaPere’s murder, Worley said.

“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.

They were within 300 feet of him during the press briefing when the devices authorities were tracking were disconnected, he said.

PHOTO: The Baltimore Police Department released the booking photo for Jason Dean Billingsley on Sept. 28, 2023.

The Baltimore Police Department released the booking photo for Jason Dean Billingsley on Sept. 28, 2023.

Baltimore Police Department

Amid the search, Worley warned that the suspect was believed to be “armed and dangerous.”

“This individual will kill and he will rape; he will do anything he can to cause harm,” Worley said.

Detectives are reviewing all cases since October 2022 “in order to determine any other connections,” the Baltimore Police Department said in a statement.

Billingsley was previously convicted of a sex offense in 2015 and released in October 2022, according to Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services online records. Billingsley is a registered sex offender in the state’s database.

He was sentenced to 30 years in prison with all but 14 years suspended due to good-time credits — also known as diminution credits — given for good behavior and education under a Maryland statute. Additional time would likely be subtracted for any time served between arrest and sentencing and days off each month, according to ABC News legal contributor Brian Buckmire.

This type of release would typically require mandatory supervision, including “heavy surveillance,” David Jaros, the faculty director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the University of Baltimore, told ABC News.

Billingsley was on parole and probation and had previously been compliant with the sex offender registry unit, officials said.

When asked about Billingsley’s release on good-time credits, Mayor Brandon Scott told reporters Thursday that every case is different, but when you look at the facts of the suspect’s 2015 case, “you will agree that he shouldn’t have been out in the streets.”

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates told reporters he didn’t know all the details of the prior case, but considered Billingsley’s plea deal and release “more or less systemic failure.”

“Hindsight like they say is always 20/20,” Bates said. “At the end of the day, I think the prosecutor who handled the case would say we had a dangerous individual off the streets for few years, yes. But we also now need to look at in terms of the system that allows for the diminution credits of an individual with this background as well as with those charges.”

PHOTO: Pava LaPere in an undated photo released by EcoMap.

Pava LaPere in an undated photo released by EcoMap.

EcoMap

LaPere’s family released a statement Wednesday reflecting on her life, compassion and work ethic.

“We have lost a deeply loved daughter, sister and friend who could understand all of us in a way that no other human being could. Pava had a unique vantage into our lives, and an intelligence to understand that each human is unique and irreplaceable,” they said in the statement. “In life’s darkest moments, Pava’s council and reflection gave all of us a perspective, and the will to persevere despite the odds.”

The family also remarked that LaPere, “loved Baltimore, its people, its potential, its art, its history and architecture.”

“There was no bigger ambassador for all that is great about the city,” they said,

EcoMap Technologies, a Baltimore-based company, said LaPere was a “visionary force” behind the startup as well as a “deeply compassionate and dedicated leader.”

“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,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

ABC News’ Desiree Adib, Beatrice Peterson and Ivan Pereira contributed to this report.

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