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Tech CEO killed in Baltimore remembered as dedicated, compassionate entrepreneur



Loved ones are remembering a slain Baltimore tech entrepreneur for her compassion and dedication to helping others

BALTIMORE -- Loved ones are remembering a slain Baltimore tech entrepreneur as a young woman who built a successful startup that earned her national recognition and local political clout while remaining focused on what motivated her from the beginning: forging connections, building community and using entrepreneurship to create meaningful social change.

A vigil was planned for Wednesday evening to honor Pava LaPere, who launched EcoMap Technologies from her dorm room at Johns Hopkins University.

The 26-year-old was found dead Monday after being reported missing. She had died from from blunt force trauma following what police believe was a random attack at her apartment complex.

Now, her friends and family members are left trying to reconcile how she lived with how she died.

“She was so the antithesis of what happened to her,” her close friend Karina Mandell told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday morning. “That polarity, that’s what makes it so shocking.”

Police announced a suspect in the case Tuesday evening, saying local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are searching for Jason Billingsley, 32, who was paroled last October in an earlier sex assault case. In an update Wednesday afternoon, police said Billingsley is also suspected in a rape, attempted murder and arson that occurred Sept. 19 in Baltimore.

Losing their friend in such a horrific way has left Mandell and others wondering if they should fear for their own safety.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, her family requested privacy.

“Pava made an impact in every endeavor she undertook and on every life she touched,” her father, Frank LaPere wrote. “She will be forever missed as a daughter, sister, grand-daughter, niece, cousin and loyal friend.”

Mandell met LaPere at an entrepreneurship networking event several years ago and knew immediately they were kindred spirits. As a college student, LaPere was heavily involved in efforts to expand opportunities for young entrepreneurs.

She gave a TEDx talk at Johns Hopkins in 2019, describing her journey into the startup world and her vision for the future. She said she scrapped plans to become a doctor after news coverage of a car bombing in Syria opened her eyes to human suffering on a global scale; she wanted to affect systemic change.

“We were alike in that we wanted to connect the dots, break down barriers and let people connect,” Mandell said. “That old adage, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

She said the same philosophy was at the heart of LaPere’s company, which uses Technology to curate data and make information more accessible. Their clients include Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and T. Rowe Price Foundation.

LaPere believed in conscious capitalism, an ethical approach to Business that’s become more popular in recent years, and she prioritized diverse hiring practices. Earlier this year, she was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for social impact. She recently posted on Instagram about growing EcoMap to a staff of 30 people and opening its offices in downtown Baltimore, the city she embraced after growing up in Arizona.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said he had the privilege of getting to know LaPere over the past few years. He praised her generosity, ingenuity and dedication to Baltimore. Scott and other leaders promised an all-out manhunt for the suspect, saying justice will be served.

In a statement posted to social media Tuesday, her EcoMap colleagues said LaPere “set a standard for leadership” through 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.”

She was up at 5:30 a.m. answering emails, working around the clock and finding joy in the process, Mandell said. She said LaPere demonstrated “compassionate impatience,” acting with urgency to help others in whatever ways she could.