The founder of a Baltimore tech startup, whose professional accomplishments earned her a spot on a Forbes 30 under 30 list earlier this year, was found dead after being reported missing late Monday morning, according to city police.
Pava LaPere, 26, had suffered from blunt force trauma, police said. Officials released her name in a news release Tuesday morning. Public records suggest LaPere was living at the apartment complex where her body was found.
Officials announced a suspect in the case at a news conference Tuesday evening: Jason Billingsley, 32, was paroled last October in an earlier sex assault case. Court records show he pleaded guilty to first-degree sex assault in 2015. Officials said they have no reason to believe LaPere knew Billingsley.
The public defender's office, which represented Billingsley in the past, told The Associated Press on Tuesday evening it is too early for them to comment on this case.
Baltimore Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley asked anyone with information about Billingsley's whereabouts to contact authorities. He said Billingsley should be considered armed and dangerous.
"This individual will kill and he will rape. He will do anything he can to cause harm," Worley said.
LaPere, who graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2019, founded the startup EcoMap Technologies. The company focuses on curating data from business, nonprofit and education ecosystems and making it easier to access and interpret, according to their website. Their clients include Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and T. Rowe Price Foundation.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said he had the privilege of getting to know LaPere over the past few years.
"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 stomachs of all Baltimoreans tonight," he said. "We will not rest until justice is served."
In a statement Tuesday, colleagues described LaPere as "a deeply compassionate and dedicated leader."
"Her untiring commitment to our company, to Baltimore, to amplifying the critical work of ecosystems across the country, and to building a deeply inclusive culture as a leader, friend and partner set a standard for leadership," EcoMap staff wrote.
In another statement released Tuesday, Johns Hopkins officials expressed condolences for the recent graduate who "made Baltimore home and invested her talent in our city."
"Pava was well known and loved in the Baltimore entrepreneurship community and will be profoundly missed," they said.
LaPere also founded a nonprofit that helped support student entrepreneurs across Maryland, according to her LinkedIn page.
She was named to Forbes' 30 under 30 list for social impact earlier this year.
On her LinkedIn profile, she described herself as a tech CEO "who believes in hyperlocal, ecosystem-based economic development to create a more equitable future for all communities." She posted on Instagram about founding the startup from her college dorm room and watching it grow into a robust, successful venture.
"To be honest, running this company has been harder than I ever imagined," she said in a video posted to social media in April by the nonprofit Baltimore Homecoming. "But it makes me feel so excited every single time we launch a new platform because we get to see the thousands of people who are using it to find the information that they need in their community."
Officials said her family asked for privacy in the immediate aftermath of her death.
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