Man accused of killing Pava LaPere, attacking and setting 2 people on fire in Baltimore, denied bail

Published 9/29/2023 10:57 a.m. EDT, Updated 9/29/2023 5:51 p.m. EDT

The crowd shouts “We love you, Pava” while holding up their phone flashlights during a vigil for Pava LaPere at the Washington Monument on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.

A man who’s accused of killing a tech entrepreneur and CEO in Baltimore waived his Miranda rights and admitted to beating her with a brick and his hands, prosecutors said on Friday.

Assistant State’s Attorney Robin Wherley brought up that allegation during a bail review hearing for Jason Billingsley, 32, of Sandtown-Winchester, at the Edward F. Borgerding Court Building in Northwest Baltimore as she argued that he should continue to be held without bond. He’s charged with first-degree murder and related offenses in the death of Pava LaPere, a tech entrepreneur who started EcoMap Technologies while she was a student at the Johns Hopkins University.

LaPere was found dead on Monday on the roof of her apartment building on West Franklin Street in Mount Vernon. She was 26.

The Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was strangulation and blunt force trauma. The manner of death was homicide.

Baltimore Police reported that investigators obtained surveillance video, used law enforcement databases and resources and spoke to a witness to identify Billingsley. Detectives believe he killed LaPere on Sept. 22.

“I believe the defendant poses a massive threat to the public,” said Wherley, who described the killing as heinous. “I also believe he poses a serious flight risk, given the nature of these charges.”

District Judge Tameika M. Lunn ordered Billingsley to continue to be held without bail.

Billingsley’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jason Rodriguez, said he did not wish to be heard on the issue of bond. He declined to comment outside the courtroom.

A pretrial services investigator stated that Billingsley previously received psychiatric treatment from age 3 to 16 for suicide attempts and reported using ecstasy weekly for 19 years. He has been unemployed for one month, she said.

LaPere was named this year to the Forbes “30 Under 30″ list in the category of social impact. At least 200 people gathered for a vigil at the Washington Monument, and family members and friends recalled her ambition and kindness.

Police initially did not publicly disclose that they had obtained an arrest warrant on Sept. 19 for Billingsley, a convicted sex offender, several hours after they allege that he held a man and a woman captive in the basement of a rooming house on Edmondson Avenue in West Baltimore.

Billingsley sexually assaulted the woman, police assert, and cut her throat. He then poured a liquid on both the man and woman and set them on fire, police reported.

In that case, Billingsley is charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder and related offenses. He worked as a maintenance worker at the building, police reported.

Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley defended the department’s efforts to apprehend Billingsley as well as its decision not to release information about that case, stating that investigators believed the attack was a “targeted act.” He said “there was no reason to believe that he was out committing random acts.”

“If we made a mistake, I’d tell you we made a mistake,” Worley said. “I don’t think we made a mistake.”

Law enforcement arrested Billingsley on Wednesday at a train station in Bowie. He’s also accused of stealing a Glock 19 Gen5 handgun from a friend in Owings Mills after the killing and failing to re-register as a sex offender.

In 2015, Billingsley pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to first-degree sex offense and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with all but 14 years suspended, plus five years’ probation. He admitted that he threatened to shoot a woman, strangled her, forced her to perform oral sex and took $53 from her wallet in 2013.

Circuit Judge Emanuel Brown accepted the plea agreement after the assistant state’s attorney reported that the woman was satisfied with the arrangement and communicated how retraumatizing it is for survivors of sexual assault to testify at trial.

Brown said he was persuaded to sign off on the resolution, though he felt that “this case deserves a lot more than the 14.”

“I want you to fully appreciate that this court is not satisfied with this plea agreement,” Brown told Billingsley, “but went along with it because of the trauma it would cause the victim to have to come in and testify.”

The Maryland Parole Commission denied parole to Billingsley, and he was released on good-time credits in 2022. He also has a 2009 conviction for first-degree assault and 2011 conviction for second-degree assault.

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